WiFi Calling: What Building Owners Need To Know – Part II

For a private webinar on WiFi Calling for your property portfolio, click here.

ref-aptThe Importance of Network Architecture

At Spot On, we have long believed that WiFi Calling would end up being the go-to solution for In-Building voice, especially in the multifamily/ multitenant industry, due to its relative inexpensiveness, ability to be quickly deployed and desirability among residents and tenants.  We have tested dedicated WiFi calling networks for years now and have 3rd party test-verified our WiFi calling solution with QOS to be not only as good as cellular, but in many instances offering better reliability and call quality.  That being said, not just any WiFi connection will be able to provide similar results.

As discussed in Part I, QOS and voice pack prioritization need to be present in order to ensure that data packets do not interfere with voice packets and that voice packets are always passed with priority.  While voice traffic uses very little in the way of data, it needs to have a consistent signal to maintain call quality and reliability.  This differs from data traffic where one may experience lag or buffering, but the experience is not completely lost.  If WiFi calls over a network drop due to the network being overwhelmed with data traffic, that network can really not be trusted as a voice solution.

The Case For Carrier Class Property-Wide WiFi: Multifamily/ Multitenant vs. Single-Residential Space

While there are differences between how data and voice are transferred over a wireless network, there is one big similarity – in a single family residential space, a single router/ individual solution can work with decent results, however in a MDU/ MTU scenario, individual routers and networks can cause significant reduced experience.  This is the same for both data and voice.  In a high density area, too many radios can cause signal interference and overlap, which can reduce signal strength and cause signal inconsistency.  As discussed in Part I and above, while reduced signal strength and inconsistency will cause poor user experience for data, it can destroy user experience for voice.  Building owners cannot rely on individual resident routers in apartments to provide an adequate voice solution.  In addition, individual router scenarios will not allow for property-wide voice coverage, so a resident would still be without voice in the hallways, corridors and community spaces.

In order for WiFi to be used as a total in-building voice solution, it needs to be deployed property-wide, covering all areas of the property with the proper network architecture to ensure constant and consistent connectivity for users.

Architecture

The first step to property-wide network coverage for MDU/ MTU buildings, is to have a centrally controlled, property-wide architecture, eliminating radio interference that is caused by multiple radios in one space.  Spot On uses a patent pending tessellated grid design that allows for maximum coverage, ensuring that two access points are always covering a user, while mitigating signal interference with remotely controlled channel use and access point placement.  This allows for constant and consistent coverage for users as well as reduced interference and the ability to remotely make any network or channel adjustments.  Spot On also uses a proprietary web application that monitors the network and alerts to equipment or signal issues and allows for adjustments to be made by our Network Operations Center before they become a problem that can cause a reduction in user experience.

Shared vs. Dedicated Bandwidth

Central, managed control of the wireless network is necessary to provide dedicated bandwidth to each device, ensuring the device is getting what it needs to use the feature, be that data or voice.  In an individual residential setting, bandwidth is shared among users.  So, if a household has a 20 Mbps Internet plan and uses a wireless router – that 20 Mbps will be shared among users and there is no control over how the bandwidth is shared.    If one user is streaming a movie, they could be hogging all the bandwidth, leaving little left for the other users and an unreliable connection.  As discussed previously, this unreliability is a barrier to voice call quality.  Spot On network architecture uses a dedicated bandwidth approach.  Bandwidth is allocation by device and is not shared among users – so there is insurance that each device is getting the bandwidth it needs to operate.

The Wireless Backbone

Another barrier to providing the consistent and reliable connectivity that is necessary to provide WiFi Calling as a viable voice solution can occur in the form of IoT.  The networks that we are building are becoming more and more complex by the minute as building owners request support for new wireless devices as amenities; Fitness Equipment, A/V equipment, HVAC controls, vending machines, door locks, security cameras and more are all becoming a part of the next generation MDU/ MTU building.  These devices, similar to property data services, simply cannot sit on the same network as voice traffic, nor should they sit on the same network as data traffic.  However, building multiple physical networks out is not only a sloppy approach but can cause poor quality, interference and is not a modular, future proofing solution that is sustainable with the proliferation of WiFi devices.

Spot On has developed the Wireless Backbone network architecture to deal with this issue.  We build one, centrally controlled physically network that is monitored by both our diagnostic software and our live Network Operations Center.  We then create multiple Virtual Local Area Networks to separate traffic and support IoT with dedicated bandwidth.  This is a controlled, modular approach that allows for the easy addition of support for future wireless devices and solutions.  In fact, properties that have deployed our property-wide WiFi Backbone already, will quickly and easily be able to have access to a dedicated WiFi calling network with QOS.

In the next segment, we will discuss the importance of Network Management and how a carrier class WiFi network can not only provide property-wide In-Building voice and data service, but how it can ease the burden of providing those services for the building owner and future proof MDU/ MTU properties for coming wireless technologies.

 For a private webinar on WiFi Calling for your property portfolio, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WiFi Calling – What Building Owners Need To Know – Part I

For a private webinar on WiFi calling for your property portfolio, click here.

It was almost a year ago that Apple announced the WiFi calling feature for iPhone and that set off a slurry of wireless chatter: if Apple was investing in WiFi calling development for T-Mobile, market demand would have to push the two majors (AT&T & Verizon) to support it….., right?  After all, what iPhone user is willing to forgo an iPhone feature for carrier loyalty (pretty much no one…. perhaps except for some of the lucky few who are still grasping onto an unlimited data plan)?  But seriously, Apple has basically dominated and dictated the tech market with the iPhone since 1997… so those of us in the WiFi world were, of course, speculating (hoping) that major carrier support was only months away after the T-mobile announcement.  Well, we were almost right….iOS 9 is on pace to offer WiFi calling for AT& T customers and Verizon is still promising WiFi calling by end of 2015… so there you have it: WiFi calling is here.

Successful business lady standing with hands foldedSo, What Does All This Mean For Building Owners?

It mean’s a heck-of-a-lot.  First off and  most importantly it means that a property-wide WiFi networks will not only provide property-wide data services, but voice coverage as well.  The in-building voice problem that has plagued the multifamily/ multitenant industry for years is no quick and inexpensive to solve.  WiFi calling means that other voice solutions like DAS, and Small Cell will be pretty much obsolete due to the length of time it takes to deploy, the necessity for carrier approval and the tremendous cost.

That being said, now is the time for building owners to get educated on WiFi calling, what it means and how best to implement it to their portfolio.  (For a private webinar on WiFi calling for your company, click here).  At Spot On we have been testing dedicated WiFi calling networks as an In-Building voice solution for the last couple of years and have had 3rd party-tested verification that a dedicated WiFi calling network with QOS is not only as good as cellular, but in many cases, call clarity was vastly improved.  What is essential here are three things: QOS, Network Architecture and Network Management.  In the next few posts we will go over each of these things in detail and why they are so important to a quality VoWiFi network.

WiFi Calling QOS (Quality of Service)

So, what’s all this talk about QOS (quality of service) and voice pack prioritization and how does it affect WiFi calling?  Quality of Service is necessary to ensure voice experience.  One thing that is very important to remember is that a multi-residential setting and a single-residential setting are not the same when it comes to WiFi (we will get into this more when discussing Network Architecture).  Think of a WiFi data network: you are watching a movie on Netflix and you have a poor WiFi connection.  What does your movie do when the connection gets slow?  It buffers.  Really annoying and can certainly put a damper on your movie experience, but once the buffering is complete your movie continues.  Voice is very different – signal loss or signal interference (the same that would cause a movie to buffer) can kill a voice call, cause jitter and fade or make a voice completely unintelligible.  VoWiFi does not use anywhere near as much bandwidth as data BUT (and it’s a big but), the signal needs to be consistent.

Another scenario: You go to make a WiFi voice call at home, someone else jumps on the router and starts streaming a movie.  Again, with data this might cause your Internet surfing to slow, but you would still be connected to the Internet.  With voice, the bandwidth hog could literally cause your call to drop by taking all the bandwidth and pulling it for their data streaming.

The way we deal with this in an MDU/ MTU setting is by setting up a dedicated voice network, only for voice calls.  We ensure that all voice packets are prioritized and we do this by constantly monitoring the network, making sure that voice comes first and data does not interfere.  This network model is also beneficial to building owners who have marketing agreements with cable companies but still want to offer WiFi services throughout their property.  Spot On can set up a dedicated WiFi voice network that is for all residents and voice only as well as a data network where residents can subscribe to data services.  This allows the property to offer VoWiFi in a bulk WiFi scenario without interfering with cable marketing agreements.

Stay tuned for more…

If you would like to request a private webinar on WiFi calling for your property portfolio, click here and we will get your questions answered.

AT&T WiFi Calling Is Released on iOS 9!

iOS 9 will support WiFi calling on the iPhone for AT&T

iOS 9 will support WiFi calling on the iPhone for AT&T Image courtesy TechCrunch: http://techcrunch.com/2015/08/07/ios-9-public-beta-3-arrives-with-support-for-att-wi-fi-calling-new-wallpapers-wi-fi-assist-and-more/#.duzxbk:7tN

CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE YOUR COMPANY’S PRIVATE WIFI CALLING WEBINAR TODAY!

Property owners, techies and the WiFi-obsessed can finally stop holding their breath.  The “will-they, won’t-they” wait is over… AT& T announced on Friday that the next iOS 9 release from Apple will include AT&T WiFi calling support for the iPhone.  THIS IS HUGE and Verizon should be quick to follow (Verizon has said they will have support for WiFi calling by the end of the year).  While T-Mobile and Sprint support for WiFi calling has offered building owners an in-building cellular solution for certain customers, the reality is that without AT&T and Verizon on board, building owners still face unhappy residents with poor cellular coverage in their buildings.  The more expensive In-Building voice solutions like DAS and even CellBoost still need to be considered by building owners as long as there are customers with poor voice service.

While for the last year we at Spot On Networks have been confident that the AT&T/ Verizon green light is close and have been building out property-wide WiFi calling networks for building owners, there are many building owners who have been skeptical about building out  a property-wide WiFi calling network without support from the two largest carriers, and completely understandably.  The great news is, WiFi calling is now the most cost-effective In-Building voice solution on the market, and clearly where the market is headed.  Now is the time to get property-wide WiFi in your building for both new and existing builds.  In addition to property-wide WiFi, it is essential that building owners be informed as to how best to future proof their new buildings for wireless technologies.  (For building owners who wish to know more about WiFi calling and/ or future proofing, we are offering complimentary webinars/ Q&A forums to assist building owners in navigating data and voice solutions for their properties – click here to request a webinar/ Q&A with us).

In other news from the iOS 9 update, a cool feature called Wi-Fi Assist.  Wi-Fi Assist will come in handy if a user is experiencing poor WiFi strength, allowing the user to switch over to cellular data automatically.   WiFi calling is clearly on the developer roadmap with Apple.

So where is Verizon in all of this?  The latest from Verizon spokesman Chuck Hamby responded to FierceWireless’s questions with:

We’ve previously said we’d support WiFi calling this year, and nothing has changed in that regard.  We’re just not ready to speak to specific devices yet.

So, there you have it, Verizon is still on pace to support WiFi calling by the end of the year, according to… Verizon.

AT&T Specifics – updated 8/20/15

Currently iOS 9 is in Beta.  May customers who have upgraded to iOS 9 are currently using WiFi calling successfully, though because it is still in Beta, not all areas nationwide may be enabled yet.  If not enabled AT&T customers will see a message to check back soon and that the upgrade is still taking place in their area.

BISNOW Multifamily Annual Conference, LA 2015

I attended BISNOW’s (www.bisnow.com) Multifamily Annual Conference yesterday in Los Angeles. Although billed as a national conference (and attended by large, national owners and developers like Essex, UDR, MG Properties Trust, Lend Lease, CBRE), the focus for many of the discussions was the multi-family market in California. Oz Erickson from Emerald Fund pointed out that San Francisco has seen an 80 thousand increase in new jobs over the last four years but only a 10 thousand unit increase in apartments…similar (yet not as striking) numbers were presented for Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. This supply shortfall was blamed on a number of factors, including California’s CEQA regulations. You can Google “CEQA” for a rundown on the regulations and the lawsuits. Regardless of where you’re at on the political spectrum, the conclusions were clear: demand for multi-family units is soaring and the supply can’t keep up. From the millennials to the aging boomers who’ll be looking for senior housing options, the American suburb and the single-family house have lost some of their appeal. High walk-scores, work-life amenities and a more urban existence have replaced the green lawn as the desirable lifestyle. In fact, a new (to me) amenity was articulated: drone pad. Someone is expecting the Amazon drone deliveries to be sooner than expected I guess.

Some other information that was articulated (not confirmed, so take it with a grain of salt):

Home ownership is at a 48 year low; all-in build costs have doubled in San Francisco over the last 5 years; “adaptive re-use” appears to be an appealing answer to these high build costs; Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac will continue to be a dominant provider of  capital to multi-family business (from Willy Walker of Walker and Dunlop).

The event ended with an excellent interview with Ethan Penner http://ethanpennermcap.blogspot.com/ who imparted some wisdom to would-be entrepreneurs gleaned after a mid-career burnout: find an unmet need; this will lead to a profit margin; profit margins = entrepreneur and employee joy; don’t ever retire. Seems like good advice to us.

 

Is your property ready for WiFi calling?

wificallingIt seems like a long time ago, but it was just last year that Apple announced iOS 8 support for WiFi calling and T-Mobile announced it would be the first major carrier to support WiFi calling on the iPhone.  The speculation started almost immediately  – what would the two biggest cellular carriers (AT&T and Verizon) do?  Would they have to support WiFi calling due to market demand? If all the major carriers supported WiFi calling, it would because a real solution to in-building cellular problems.  At Spot On we have long seen that In-Building WiFi would be the most cost effective voice solution for building owners if supported by the four majors and our belief was that if Apple were supporting it, Verizon and AT&T would eventually have to support it.  Despite two quick vague announcements from Verizon and AT&T that they would be supporting WiFi calling “sometime in 2015″, news from both on the topic has been pretty quite.  Until now…

A few days ago, RCR Wireless reported on a June petition by AT&T to the FCC in which AT&T set their 2015 target date to release WiFi calling support.  Despite CEO Ralph De La Vega’s VoWiFi-downplay statement last year that, “we’ll use WiFi calling in 2015, but only as a complement”, the AT&T petition in June had AT&T state, “As these VoIP technologies become the preferred platform for voice services…”.  It seems like AT&T is changing their tune on VoWiFi.

While Verizon has remained a bit more publicly quiet on the topic during the last 8 months, they have previously stated that their launch of VoWiFi “should be available by mid-2015″.  We have also heard through the rumor mill that Verizon is beta testing WiFi calling with a few select customers.

Now.  The real question is: Is your property ready for WiFi calling?   With support from all four major carrier WiFi will be the most cost effective method to providing in-building voice coverage and data for your residents, tenants and customers.  If you need more information on WiFi calling, or an assessment of your property’s wireless needs, please contact me.

Qualcomm, LTE-U and WiFi

For those of you not following this, the latest news is that Qualcomm in a filing with the FCC is responding to claims that LTE-U interferes with WiFi. The interference claims are being made by folks in the cable industry and others who believe that LTE-U is a clever technology meant not to solve any real problem but to give the cellular folks and their chipmakers more control over the user. From our end it looks like LTE-U is the latest reincarnation of Iridium – a technology in search of a market – and we frankly don’t see any compelling demand for the offering.

In the meantime: we still wait for Verizon and AT&T to finally complete their announced support of WiFi calling. This will do more to satisfy consumers in the short term than any progress on the LTE-U front.

Spot On Networks Opens Second Central Office In San Francisco

Spot On Networks Opens New West Coast Central Office in San Francisco July 2015

New Haven, CT July 8, 2015 – For Immediate Release

Spot On Networks, LLC (“SON”), the leading provider of managed wireless solutions to the U.S. multi-family/ multi-tenant industry, is opening its west coast headquarters to be located in San Francisco, California.    The new San Francisco office will allow SON to better meet the increasing demand for wireless networks, nationwide.  SON currently operates wireless networks in 35 states across the country, including a large California portfolio.

“This expansion is a very exciting move for us”, said Richard Sherwin, CEO of Spot On Networks, “We have seen a huge demand for both our products and our role as wireless solutions experts not only in our flagship market, MDU/ MTU, but in emerging markets like Senior Living, Commercial and Retail developments.”

SON’s President and Chief Revenue Officer, Tom Doyle, has re-located to San Francisco to launch the California office.  “I am thrilled to be launching Spot On’s new office in San Francisco.  With full carrier support for WiFi calling right around the corner, we are anticipating big growth and high demand for Spot On Networks’ services in the coming months.  Having offices on both coasts will allow us to keep our pulse on the market.”

About Spot On Networks

Spot On Networks is the largest Wireless Internet Service Provider to the multifamily industry. In addition to offering its UserSafe® managed Wi-Fi services to the multifamily, hospitality and commercial industries,  Spot On Networks has a range of wireless services including CellBoost®,  a cell coverage enhancement service, and  WiFiPlus+®, its wireless backbone integrated with energy management, building automation and security monitoring.

For more information about Spot On Networks or this press release please contact:

Jessica DaSilva

Director of Marketing

Product Management

O: 203-523-5210

FCC Votes Approves Internet Subsidies For Low-Income Residents

As a property manager I was speaking with this week stated, offering WiFi in low-income housing “is just the right thing to do for residents”.  Property owners are eating the cost of Internet for their low-income properties in order to give residents WiFi access as an amenity when they cannot increase the rent to cover the cost as they would for a market rate building.

Interestingly enough, the FCC voted last Thursday to expand the Lifeline Subsidy program to include Internet services.  This program offers $9.25/ month to families to help out with communications services costs.

While Lifeline program recipients can now include the cost of their Internet in what communications services are eligible for subsidy, it is important to note that the actual amount that families receive has not increased, only what services are eligible.

The statics regarding Internet services for low-income households are staggering with only 48% of low-income (less than $25K/ year) households having internet access, compared with 95% of households with incomes above $150,000.

It is unclear exactly how these subsidies will affect the building owners providing Internet, if at all, but what is clear is that the FCC recognizes Internet access as a utility and not an amenity.

What is Google’s Project Fi and What Does It Mean For WiFi Calling?

Project Fi is a program to deliver a fast, easy wireless experience in close partnership with leading carriers, hardware makers, and our users. -Image and Caption from: https://fi.google.com/about/

Project Fi, Google’s attempt at competing with the traditional Big-4 wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint) is offering a semi-fresh, semi-less-expensive take on the traditional mobile price plans, albeit, with a few interesting perks.

Similar to T-Mobile, the deal with Project Fi is that it is clearly being marketed to the millennials, “Uncarriers” (to coin T-Mobile) and frugal-yet-tech savvy peeps.  The idea is simplicity and transparency and a fresh take on the confusing billing practices of the big carriers (however, we have to give a shout-out to T-Mobile for really shaking up the industry in that regard).  Basically, you pay $20 for unlimited talk and text and buy data in packages.  The data portion is where Google’s take on mobile is refreshing: you get a refund on data you don’t use and if you go over, you only get charged for what you used – no crazy data overage charges.

What does this mean for WiFi Calling?

Well, Project Fi is currently only available on the Nexus 6 – so that means no iPhone, no Galaxy – but the good news is that WiFi Calling is “almost” out of testing on the Nexus 6 so Project Fi will allow for WiFi calling and consumers will be provided with yet another option and cellular service provider that offers WiFi support for WiFi calling.

Facts About Google’s Project Fi:

  • Project Fi is partnered with both T-Mobile and Sprint and boasts seamless handoff between the two carriers AND WiFi
  • No crazy overages – for data you will only pay for what you use
  • WiFi Calling WILL be supported, however WiFi calling on the Nexus 6 reported a bug last weekend that they are claiming should be in just a few days
  • To check out Project Fi’s coverage map, click here: https://fi.google.com/coverage

CCRCs Using Energy Savings To Offset Amenity Costs

Sound familiar: Mr. and Mrs. O’Connor are residents at your property.  They decide to go stay with their children for the weekend.  It’s mid-summer and 95 degrees outside.  They leave for the weekend with the windows open and the A/C blasting.  Every minute your property is losing money – but there is nothing you can do about it.  There is a solution to the problem and building owners are beginning to catch on: wireless energy management.  DOWNLOAD PRESENTATION TO LEARN MORE

For Senior and Assisted Living facilities, one of the largest uncontrolled costs is energy spending.  Because the majority of CCRCs cover the cost of one or more resident energy utilities (whether that be HVAC or electricity), residents are not as frugal as they would be if they were paying for their own energy.  However, one of the main benefits to residents living in a CCRC is that the resident pays their monthly rent and does not have to worry about  recurring utility bills – it makes life a lot simpler for the resident and makes the property that much more attractive.  The downside is that the building owner ends up footing outrageous energy bills and the worst part is… the building owner has no control over how the energy is being used.  The building owner is in an energy catch-22.

Reduce Energy Usage Up To 25%

Resident energy usage is not the only problem building owners are facing either – the energy used to run a CCRC is mind blowing.  Amenity area energy and lighting, security systems, kitchen equipment and refrigeration, HVAC for the building – these all add up.  The solution is to employ a wireless energy management system which offers a host of benefits to the building owner:

  • Monitor and control energy usage manually and automatically
  • Receive alerts to out of trend/ suspicious energy usage
  • Receive alerts to failing/ failed equipment
  • Control HVAC, lighting, A/V, electricity, security in and out of apartments
  • Provide wireless access throughout the entire building
  • Provide WiFi voice calling throughout the entire building

DOWNLOAD THIS PRESENTATION TO LEARN MORE

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