Inbuilding Cellular Solutions And WiFi Calling A Hot Topic at NMCH OpTech

Among this year’s hot topics at the 2014 NMHC Op Tech in Orlando, was the debate over MDU/ MTU in-building cellular reception and who is responsible for solving the problem as well as what the actual effect poor indoor cellular coverage has on apartment occupancy.   There were varying opinions from building owners as to just how much business is lost due to poor cell reception in the buildings, but one thing was agreed upon: there is a lot of frustration among building owners that the poor reception problem has become theirs to solve, as indicated in NMHC’s recap article of the discussion.

“Scott Wesson, senior vice president and CIO of UDR, said that there are many examples of residents who absolutely need reliable connectivity to perform their jobs and it they can’t get it, will be dissatisfied and ultimately move.  A doctor on call, for example, must be reached on his cellphone.”

Building owners have been saddled with the high cost of Distributed Antenna Systems and frustrated by the uncertainty that comes along with rebroadcasting signal as, “there’s no guarantee that the cellular service provider will ultimately provide the authorization to rebroadcast, making the system functional”.

However, the white knight technology solution appears to be in the form of WiFi calling.  Building owners already need to be providing residents and tenants with WiFi for data offload, internet access, staff services and more.  Now, it looks like that same property-wide WiFi that is being used as a resident amenity will be able to provide a voice solution.

It means the four major carrier would effectively offer a voice calling facility that could be seamless to the user, meaning the user doesn’t know if he’s on the wifi or cell service,” explained Dick Sherwin, CEO of Spot On Networks. “It’s a cost effective way to implement voice calling.”

Read the entire NMHC recap

Airlines Show Thanks With Free WiFi This Thanksgiving!!!

On Wednesday, November 26, eight airlines (and select airports) will be offering free WiFi for what is the busiest travel day of the year!  Being dubbed “Connection Day” by some, airlines are offering Free WiFi to travelers AND free digital content like music and magazines are being offered from Pandora, Amazon, Conde Nast and others.  A pretty nice gesture to help make the travel day a little more entertaining and a little less expensive.

If you are traveling this Thanksgiving holiday on one of the airlines below – enjoy the free WiFi access:

  • American, Alaska, Delta, Air Tran, United, US Airways, Virgin America: 30 minutes of free WiFi access
  • JetBlue: Free WiFi for your entire flight!!! (nice!)
  • Airports with Boing: Travelers will get free WiFi access in the airport for varying durations.

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LinkNYC to setup world’s largest free public WiFi

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both_link_modules.0WiFi has become an important pillar of our society, helping connect us like never before. It’s used in homes, small and large businesses, public areas such as parks and event venues as well as shopping centers. The next logical progression for WiFi is to provide service to the general public, helping those who can not afford internet access.

CityBridge is a consortium of companies in New York City joining forces to build LinkNYC, a network of WiFi pillars placed all over the city, providing access to free WiFi Calling nationwide, as well as a Gigabit access which promises to be 20 times faster than your home connection. Members of the CityBridge group include Titan, the Manhattan-based ad company that already maintains most of the city’s pay phones; Qualcomm, the telcom giant; Control Group, a design firm, and Comark, a hardware company.

“With this proposal for the fastest and largest municipal Wi-Fi network in the world – accessible to and free for all New Yorkers and visitors alike – we’re taking a critical step toward a more equal, open and connected city,” said Mayor de Blasio.

Columns placed curbside will feature table size screens that will allow the public to access city information, maps, and and free nationwide calling. Easy 911 and 311 calling will also be available as well as free device charging.

Privacy concerns have been raised, but the LinkNYC promises not to sell private data to other companies. Mobile users will have to consciously opt in using an app on their device. Advertising data will be used to modify targeted ads which are projected to generate somewhere around $1 billion dollars over 12-year period. And with a 50-50 split, the City of New York stands to pocket around $500 million.

References: 

New York City is building 10,000 internet pylons for free public Wi-Fi. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2014, “Hello, NYC? The future is calling via public Wi-Fi (editorial)”
http://www.theverge.com/2014/11/17/7235481/new-york-city-to-provide-free-gigabit-speed-public-wi-fi-for-everyone

The scary truth about Cable providers and dual SSIDs

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It’s undeniable, traditional cable subscriptions are on the decline.  With the availability of data streaming, Netflix, Amazon Prime and the internet in general generation Y does not like to pay a lot for TV.  This has left the cable companies scurrying to change their business model.  What is also undeniable is the increase in WiFi usage.  Cable companies want to get into the WiFi game and are touting large WiFi network expansions (Comcast alone touts “millions of WiFi hotspots” )that would have the average consumer believing that a lot of development is going into building out cable operator WiFi networks, like Xfinity.   What is actually occurring is entirely another operation – one that you, as a consumer, may have a lot more to with than you think.

The Truth About Dual SSIDs

When you activate the wireless router provided to you by the cable company you give your home WiFi connection a personal name, like: “Home”, “The Smiths” or even something funny like, “May The Force Be With You”, however, you will also notice that there is a second SSID or “guest” SSID named after your cable company, like “Xfinity”.  This guest SSID is one of the “millions of public hotspots” thats the cable companies are boasting about.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Those WiFi hotspots that cable companies are working so hard to build for their customers are actually… their customers.  Basically, you are subscribing to the cable service and then, via the router you are paying for, expanding the network of the company you are paying a subscription fee to.

Routers with Dual SSIDs Can Cause Problems for Connectivity/ Voice in MDUs

So, what does this mean in the MDU space?  Well, WiFi is a shared spectrum experience.  That means that the bandwidth available in one router is still split between SSIDs and users that are connected to it.  Whoever grabs the upstream first will be the one to have the best connectivity.  In an apartment setting where there is a high density of users, the likely hood that an Xfinity subscriber will be using your home router is much higher than in an individual residence.  In addition, WiFi voice coverage will suffer greatly with the cable company dual SSID approach.  For example: If you neighbor, two apartments down, has a guest who happens to connect to YOUR WiFi to stream a YouTube video and then you go to make a voice call – you may be out of luck.  The guest grabbed the upstream first and regardless  of who pays for the network, you are at a loss.

Comcast Admits This Approach Can Cause Problems!

Charlie Douglas, executive director of corporate communications at Comcast, confirmed that connectivity issues may be caused by the dual SSID approach and that “home hotspots could experience network congestion from guest users simply because of the way that WiFi works” as reported in the Light Reading article addressing this issue: How Home Hotspots Could Hit Hurdles

What Does This Mean for Voice Over WiFi/ WiFi Calling?

It means a lot, especially in an MDU or other high density environment.  It is important that WiFi routers have QOS and can prioritize voice packets over data.  Unless voice traffic is prioritized, voice service will suffer.  Users are used to seeing data buffering, but do not want to experience dropped or lost calls.  When it comes to MDU/ MTU WiFi – it should have bandwidth management and QOS.

CellBoost® offering extended to Commercial Real Estate/ Office Space

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The demand for reliable coverage and capacity in Class A commercial buildings has increased exponentially in recent years.  The use of tablets, smartphones and the BYOD culture of today’s businesses for both voice coverage and data streaming is forcing commercial building owners to consider their options for providing in-building voice coverage.  The first step to getting a voice coverage problem solved is to request an exhausted site survey and frequency plan to determine what issues are occurring at the property and how best to solve the problem for the least amount of money.  Request A Site Survey

What In-Building Voice Solutions Are Available To Commercial Properties?

Until recently, the only real solution available to building owners has been the Distributed Antenna System (DAS) which can run upwards of 500,000K – 1,000,000 dollars.  That is no longer the case.  There is now flexibility for building owners to deploy a cost effective solution that really works.  More than ever, commercial building owners are in control of their own destiny and have a suite of in-building voice solutions to choose from.

CellBoost®

Requires no carrier approval. Quick to deploy. Carrier Neutral.

Typical cost: $0.75/ sq. ft


Heterogeneous Network

Combines voice solutions (including: WiFi, Small Cell) to provide the best voice solution to cover all carrier/ coverage problems.  Carrier specific.


DAS

Requires carrier approval.  Slow to deploy.  Very Expensive.

Typical cost: $2.00/ sq. ft.


What Causes The Voice Coverage Problem?

The problem is really two-fold.  Today’s buildings are constructed with LEED building materials, like Low-E glass, that do not allow cellular signal to penetrate.  In addition, the cellular carriers have built out their networks to provide geographic coverage without taking into account the amount of users on the network.  In a commercial building space, where there are a large amount of users in a dense area, calls are dropped, connections are lost and data streaming is slow.  The cellular networks are strained and cannot support all of the usage.

The Importance of A Site Survey/ Frequency Plan

When it comes to in-building coverage and capacity: “There is no such thing as plug and play”.  That quote, said by Paula Doublin, AT&T’s AP for Antenna Solutions, really sums up what needs to go into an in-building voice solution.  DAS is not the only solution out there, though it is the most expensive.   A site survey and coordinated frequency plan is necessary to pinpoint areas of poor coverage by carrier and then a solution can be formulated specifically to the areas/ carriers with problems.  Contact Spot On for a  site survey/ frequency plan of your building.

 

Beware: Individual Home Routers Do Not Equal An MDU Voice Solution!

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Cable companies like Comcast are activating subscribers home wireless routers to broadcast two SSIDs, the subscriber SSID and a public hotspot SSID for guest/public use.  This initiative, called the Community WiFi initiative, is a “shared spectrum experience” – which means that users on both sets of SSIDs, the subscriber and anyone who accesses the public hotspot, are sharing spectrum.  This can cause serious performance issues for the subscriber (the person who is actually paying for the service & router).  The problems that are being caused by individual routers broadcasting public hotspots was recently addressed in an article published by Light Reading: How Home Hotspots Could Hit Hurdles:

“Imagine a public user 50 feet away from an access point wants to upload a photo to Facebook while the owner of the home hotspot is trying to send email only 10 feet away.  Because WiFi is egalitarian, if the guest user grabs the upstream channel first, it creates congestion on the network, making it difficult for the home subscriber to send email.” – CableLabs architect Vivek Ganti

This is very pertinent to the MDU/ MTU industry in regards to WiFi calling as a voice solution for residents.  If a subscriber attempts to make a voice call from their apartment over an individual router, but another user is connecting to their guest SSID, the resident may not be able to make a call or service could be unreliable.  In order for WiFi to work as a voice solution, it needs to be managed with QOS to ensure that voice service gets prioritized over the network and is not sacrificed for data.  Learn more about WiFi Callling.

Comcast has admitted that home hotspots could experience network congestion when guest users log on to the public hotspots.  Charlie Douglas, executive director of corporate communications at Comcast confirmed the issues, saying:

“‘If you were at a baseball stadium, and it was empty, and the WiFi was on, and you were there by yourself, you would have an amazing experience,’ but, he continued, if the stadium filled up, your experience would slow down.”

Douglas references exactly why network management and QOS are essential to not only voice service but to data usage as well over WiFi as well.  There needs to be network management behind the scenes ensuring that bandwidth is being allocated for the usage that is occurring and that voice packets are prioritized over data packets.

Read the Light Reading Article

 

VoLTE & WiFi

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WiFi calling is undoubtedly a hit amongst its users. The VoLTE technology allows for better call quality inside buildings where coverage can be spotty if at available. VoLTE presented a solution to mobile service providers by giving its users access to the cellular network through millions of WiFi Hotspots, therefore reducing costs and network congestion. The outcome is a win win for the user. With no distinguishable difference in quality of service, callers can make and receive calls and texts without using any of their carrier minutes or incurring any additional costs.

What is VoLTE?

Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) has been developed to allow carriers worldwide to offer the same high-quality services over mobile as well as broadband through packetized voice and data on a next generation network architecture based on IP multimedia subsystem (IMS).

Calls originating on WiFi networks do not use carrier networks for access, offering the same access to services over both LTE and WiFi, while providing the same quality of services for its user. Utilizing the AMR-WB (Adaptive Multi-Rate Wideband) sideband codec, VoLTE bring improved call quality with it’s wider speech bandwidth of 50 – 7000 Hz, which is about twice the bandwidth of PSTN Call

Base on 3GPP standard, VoLTE works with any client that utilizes the standard. Phones like iPhones and Androids will be offered by major carriers such as T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

AT&T AVP for Antenna Solutions talks In-Building Coverage & Capacity

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This year’s HetNet Expo in Chicago boasted some great speakers including featured speaker Paula Doublin, Assistant Vice President, Antenna Solutions Construction and Engineering for AT&T.  Doublin started her speech by opening up for questions and, not surprisingly, the first question asked was in regards to spending.  What was really interesting, however, was the focus on multi-faceted, well-thought out in-building deployments that address both coverage and capacity issues.  Doublin’s speech seemed to reject the “one solution fits all” approach, even going so far as to say, “I cringe when I hear the word plug and play…there is no such thing” (we agree).

Doublin seems to support exhausting all network options to solve the coverage and capacity problems – hinting that you need all network deployment types, including WiFi and network customization and that it all has to work together to provide a successful in-building solution that provides both coverage AND capacity:

“You’ve got site acquisition, you’ve got power, you’ve got backhaul, you’ve got interoperability, you’ve got alarming and maintenance, you’ve got customer service and you’ve got technical skill. You’ve got to have all of those to deploy a macro. What about a DAS? You’ve got to have it all. What about a Wi-Fi? You’ve got to have it all. What about a small cell? You’ve got to have it all.”

At Spot On Networks, we have been speaking of network customization and customized in-building solutions for a long time.  In regards to cellular coverage the first essential step to getting the problem solved is an exhaustive frequency site survey to determine wher the actual problems are and then build the solution to fit the problem. There simply is no “one size fits all” solution.  Coverage, cost, network management and backhaul capacity (to name a few) all need to be taken into consideration to develop the idea in-building solution.    With 4 of 4 major carriers announcing support for WiFi calling coming in 2015, the complexity of in-building coverage and capacity solutions gets even greater and cost savings really begins to come into play in the MDU/ MTU spaces.

For more information about getting a site survey and frequency plan for your property email: sales@spotonnetworks.com

Government mandates airlines replace cockpit displays affected by WiFi signals

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The maker of cockpit displays for Honeywell is under pressure from the goverment to replace the displays on older 777 and 737 models. Honeywell suggested to the FAA the need to replace displays due to several problems discovered during the year-long testing of on-board WiFi.

The need to replace displays comes from the wide-spread use of WiFi networks on board airlines not only by passengers, but also the crew. During the testing, screens flickered and sometimes went completely blank for up to 6 minutes.

The test problems occurred only on the ground, but highlighted the need to install WiFi-compliant screens to prevent issues mid-flight. According to Reuters screens will cost approximately $10,000, and will be replaced in about 1300 planes.

This is great news for business travelers and means that more and more airlines will be putting in WiFi networks for passengers.

T-Mobile brings seamless WiFi Calling option on iPhone 6

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T-Mobile USA’s newest feature, WiFi Calling, has had the cellular industry buzzing for quite some time. T-Mobile isn’t the only carrier to offer the service, but achieving seamless transfer from home or office WiFi to cellular carrier networks have not been a speedy process. T-Mobile announced this week that they have enabled the seamless WiFi calling option on iPhone 6, giving their customers a way to go from WiFi to T-Mobile’s Networks without disruption.

WiFi calling is nothing new. Companies like Google and Skype have long since offered their versions of Internet-based calls. The drawbacks to the aforementioned services such as Google Hangout ais that customers weren’t able to use their cellular phone numbers. T-Mobile has developed a way for your cellphone to go from WiFi directly to T-Mobile’s network.

 

Having one of the smallest networks in the US, T-Mobile has been faced with a uphill battle competing on the American market. Due to it’s reduced network capacity, T-Mobile was known for dropped calls and lack of coverage area. This new addition to it’s service offerings gives T-Mobile customers a boost in signal reception by allowing them to utilize their WiFi network to send and receive calls and text messages.

No other carrier is offering a strong WiFi-Calling service such as T-Mobile, in part due to what bigger carriers such as Verizon and AT&T describe as the lack of need due to a much larger coverage areas. But where the larger carriers fall short is the poor reception areas such as apartment and office buildings constructed with Green Building materials that help trap energy in, while insulating the interiors from the elements. These materials also block out wireless signals. This is where T-Mobile is sure to pickup disenfranchised customers who pay high monthly costs of Verizon’s or AT&T’s service plans while missing out on coverage places they use their phones most. Allowing their customers to use WiFi calling gives T-Mobile a network coverage boost as well as helps them retain clients who would otherwise switch services due to poor reception. It also greatly improves their customer satisfaction in the Multi-Dwelling Units (Apartment and Office Buildings). Overall, this move signals a “win-win” for T-Mobile in what amounts to be as one of the most effective ways to improve network usability.

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