FCC Continues To Lay The Smack-Down On Hotels That Block Personal WiFi HotSpots –Debates Ensue Over WiFi and Your Rights


The FCC has fined hotel giant, Hilton, and Baltimore Convention Center’s WiFi Provider, MC Dean for being in violation of the law for blocking personal hotspot signals while inside their facilities.  These two companies now join Marriott, who in January of this year was fined $600,000 for the same.  Hilton faced a small penalty of $25,000 for violations that occurred at their Anaheim, CA hotel, whereas wireless provider, MC Dean is facing a proposed fine upwards of $700,000 for admitting to using powerful technology that blocked connections both inside and outside of the Baltimore Convention Center.  MC Dean then charged as much as $1,095 to use their wireless services for events.

The FCC has been both a big advocate of protecting unlicensed spectrum and the rights of the public to have access to WiFi, however they were not all in agreement on this one, the FCC action was approved with a 3-2 vote.  Part of a dissenting opinion from FCC Commissioner Agit Pai:

“In the end, this decision is the latest evidence that the FCC’s enforcement process has gone off the rails.”

One WLAN manager recently put the necessity for FCC enforcement into perspective: “The only thing I can think of is that the people who are ‘confused’ don’t understand that if THEY have the right to jam my Wi-Fi devices, then conversely, I have the right to jam THEIR Wi-Fi devices.  Does anyone really believe that open warfare is the way to proceed?”

The law seems pretty black and white, right?

FCC Section 333: it is “patently unlawful for any company to maliciously block FCC-approved WiFi connections”.

So why, other than the obvious added revenue stream, would a hotel or convention center want to block their guests’ personal hot spots?  Part of the answer is so that the hotel or convention center can preserve the quality of its wireless network.  To put it simply: too many access points trying to operate on the same channels can cause a dramatic decrease in the quality of the service.  This is exactly why a property-wide WiFi network is necessary in a multifamily space: too many personal routers = interference and poor quality for residents.  It is also why intelligent WiFi network architecture is of such importance in a multifamily/ multitenant space.  A WiFi network designed right will have the ability to monitor, adjust and mitigate channel interference remotely and the network would be architected to minimize interference caused by too many access points (Spot On’s patent-pending network architecture does this).

The second “argument” being made by hotel owners is that customers are vulnerable to hacking and identity theft when they don’t control all network usage.  That one is a little odd.  If the hotel is using a truly secure network backed by client isolation technology, like Spot On’s UserSafe™ technology, users on the network are invisible to hackers.  As for those using personal hotspots in the hotel – they should be able to have the right to determine whether or not they feel safe using their connection – it should not be the hotel’s decision.

As for public opinion in the comments and blogs today, there are a few takeaways:

  • The public views WiFi as a free utility – one that is outside of “big-corporate” control
  • Many seem disgruntled by the tendency for higher end hotels to charge for WiFi and are gravitating to mid-tier chains to get their free WiFi and free breakfast
  • This is one area where public majority seems to really view a government entity as “For The People:
  • Not everyone thinks the same. While the majority of the public is cheering for the FCC ruling, a few have the opinion: “If you don’t like it as a consumer, go somewhere else”.  One commenter on Engadget: “It is their property that you are on – if they block your hotspot then don’t go there again and go to a chain that does.”

To read the FCC commission document, click here.

Verizon Requests FCC Permission To Offer WiFi Calling











And here we have it, folks: Verizon has officially requested permission from the FCC to offer the WiFi calling feature to it’s users.  This is huge and  means that Verizon will soon complete the quad-fecta of major wireless carriers to offer WiFi calling, joining AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint.  We called it!  WiFi Calling is the future of in-building voice – finally a solution for building owners that is cost effective and has the ability to provide data services to residents.

If you are new to the WiFi calling conversation, AT&T started rolling out WiFi calling to all users on October 8th after receiving an FCC waiver on October 6.  AT&T had delayed pulling WiFi calling out of Beta as it waited for the waiver grant which gives special permission to the carrier to forgo offering text-to-speech for the hearing impaired while it waits for Real-Time Text (RTT).  RTT  is expected to be made available in 2016.  Verizon’s waiver is along the sames lines.  There has been a very public feud between T-Mobile and AT&T over the waiver with AT&T accusing T-Mobile of not following FCC guidelines and T-Mobile accusing AT&T of simply having sour grapes over being the third carrier to offer the feature.  Drama aside, the important thing is that WiFi, an in-building technology by nature, is now able to provide a cost effective method of in-building voice and will soon be supported on the networks of all four major carriers.

There had been a lot of speculation over whether or not Verizon would be able to roll out WiFi calling by the end of the year.  Back in August, Verizon spokesman Chuck Hamby responded to an inquiry from FierceWireless as to whether or not they were on track to offer WiFi calling in 2015.  Hamby’s response then was, “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”.  Verizon, however has been so quiet on their progress that it lead to speculation that perhaps they would not deliver.  Furthering the speculation was last week’s news that Verizon had included WiFi calling on their Verizon messages app.

We began 3rd party testing WiFi calling technologies over our networks years ago in anticipation of full carrier support for WiFi calling that is native to the device and are experts on providing crystal clear and reliable WiFi voice coverage.  If you are new to WiFi calling and what it can do for your building, please drop me a line and we would be happy to teach you the benefits: marketing@spotonnetworks.com

Stay tuned for more Verizon WiFi calling news and dates for beta and/or release.



Verizon enables WiFi calling… with a few caveats


Cell problems in your building? We can help with property-wide WiFi calling networks and CellBoost.  Click here to request more information.

Verizon Messages App: Get it on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/message+/id621469412?mt=8

Verizon has jumped on the WiFi calling bandwagon.  In an effort to keep up with AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, Verizon has enabled WiFi calling for it’s customers via it’s Verizon Messages app.  Verizon’s solution, which seems to be a temporary one until VZ does the “technological work to make WiFi calling available” across it’s network, sits somewhere in between WiFi calling that is native to the phone and OTT apps like Skype and Viber.  The good news about the Verizon Messages WiFi calling solution is that the app does not assign you a different phone number as OTT apps do.  The bad news is that you need to use the app to make voice calls, Verizon customers who use the native dialer on their phone will be making the call over the cellular network.

To use WiFi calling, Verizon customers need to:

  1. Have iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus
  2. Download latest version of Verizon Messages app from App store
  3. Enable advanced calling on iPhone
  4. Enable calling within the Verizon Messages app

AT&T officially enabled WiFi calling across it’s entire network last week after receiving it’s FCC waiver and T-Mobile and Sprint have offered WiFi calling for awhile now.  Verizon CFO, Fran Shammo, said last year that Verizon would enable WiFi calling by the middle of 2015 and Verizon stated earlier this year that they were still on track to enable WiFi calling on their networks by end of 2015.  While it seems clear that Verizon still has some work to do to get WiFi calling working natively for it’s customers, at least the Verizon Messages update will get some of their customers able to use WiFi calling – this shows that VZ is making the effort to get their customers the feature.

Hopefully the public will not have to wait too much longer to have WiFi calling fully enabled on both iOS and Android for all 4 of the top carriers.  When you look at the progress from last fall, it really is huge.  Currently T-Mobile is boasting about 12 million WiFi calls made daily and the adoption of AT&T WiFi calling is sure to skyrocket the WiFi calling numbers in the coming months.  Stay tuned…

Multi-family Cell Coverage A Major Issue – New York Times Takes Notice

This Sunday’s Real Estate section of the New York Times included an interesting article: The Cellphone Imperative: If I Can’t Text, I’m Moving, which addressed the ongoing issue of poor in-building coverage in NYC multi-family buildings and the negative impact that lack of coverage has on leasing apartments.  Solutions range from WiFi Calling all the way to DAS – but the point is clear, it’s time for building owners to pick a solution or risk losing potential renters and buyers.  See below for a run-down of the most popular solutions or contact us to discuss what solution is right for your property: 203-523-5210.

The Impact

So just how negative an impact does poor in-building cellular having on leasing and selling apartments?  The NYT made it pretty clear:

“’It could kill a deal,’ said David J. Maundrell III, the founder of aptsandlofts.com, which was acquired a few days ago by Citi Habitats.  Being fully connected has become ‘a part of our daily routine,’ said Mr. Maundrell, noting how prospective residents constantly check their phones during showings. ‘People are addicted to it.’”

Real estate brokers are also taking notice of the importance of good cellular reception inside and are saying that, for buyers, adequate cellular coverage is non-negotiable and is as much a requirement of purchasing/ leasing a home as having a certain number of bedrooms:

“’A strong cell reception is a prerequisite,’ said Michael Graves, an associate broker at Douglas Elliman.”

Apparently, even celebrities are not exempt from facing coverage issues in their luxury apartments.  According to the Times, Jay Z walked away from a long-term lease after suffering a few days of poor cell signal.  Case in point, from billionaire to “renters on a budget”, everyone has cellular coverage on their priority list.

What Causes The Cellular Problem

Unfortunately, building owners encounter the issue of poor cellular coverage simply because they are building their buildings in the best way: using energy efficient materials like low-E glass, reinforced steel and concrete.  These building materials are creating a big problem.  Material like low- emissions glass, for example, is designed the keep the elements out and heat/ air conditioning inside – these energy saving windows drastically weaken cell signal and in some cases do not allow it to pass through at all.

Available Solutions

The NYT article talks a lot about both DAS and wireless networks (WiFi), though it seems to lump them together without pointing out the differences.   This part of the article can be a bit confusing.  A DAS system simply is not an option for the majority of building owners out there due to the high cost and amount of time it takes to get approval on such a solution, WiFi Calling and CellBoost® are very different from DAS in both network architecture, cost and need for approval.  There are multiple solutions for building owners to consider and what is right depends on the needs of the property: budget, the demographics of the building, time-frame for deployment, etc all need to be considered.  Solutions range from highly expensive carrier solutions to the more cost efficient dedicated WiFi Calling solution.  Here is a snap shot of the three most popular building-wide solutions, what they look like and how much they cost (from least to most expensive):

WiFi Calling – Approx. Cost: $0.40 per square foot:

  • What Is It? In-building wireless network with dedicated bandwidth and quality of service
  • Benefits: Cost effective, same physical network provides data services for residents, supports multiple carriers, call quality in testing is often better than cellular
  • Downsides: Currently only available for AT&T, T-Mobile & Sprint (Verizon has said they will deploy soon)


- Approx. Cost: $0.75 per square foot:

  • What Is It? Uses a donor antenna to bring existing outdoor cell signal into the building
  • Benefits: Quick to deploy, carrier agnostic, does NOT require carrier approval
  • Downsides: Currently only available for AT&T, T-Mobile & Sprint (Verizon has said they will deploy soon)

DAS - Approx. Cost: $2.00 per square foot:

  • What Is It? Essentially turns a building into a mini-cell site.  Relies on a base transceiver station.  Mostly used for stadiums and arenas
  • Benefits: Provides excellent cellular call quality
  • Downsides: Very expensive, slow to deploy, may become obsolete


Cellular Problems At Your Property?  contact us to discuss what solution is right for your property: 203-523-5210.



AT&T WiFi Calling On Its Way – FCC Grants Waiver Request

AT&T ATandT Store, 2/2015, by Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on YouTube #ATandT

Image credit: Endgadget.com

Hold on to your seats – AT&T WiFi calling for all AT&T customers is now on the fast track after a brief delay due to AT&T’s petition to the FCC for a waiver for it’s real-time text (RTT) feature.  The FCC requires services to support teletypewriter for hearing-impaired individuals, the RTT feature that AT&T wants to use will not be available until 2016 which is why AT&T needed the petition.  As reported, AT&T launched the feature in Beta and Beta customers were still able to use WiFi Calling during the delay.  Carrier drama has ensued with AT&T calling out both T-Mobile and Sprint for offering WiFi Calling without getting a waiver from the FCC:

We’re grateful the FCC has granted AT&T’s waiver request so we can begin providing Wi-Fi calling. At the same time we are left scratching our heads as to why the FCC still seems intent on excusing the behavior of T-Mobile and Sprint, who have been offering these services without a waiver for quite some time. Instead of initiating enforcement action against them, or at least opening an investigation, the agency has effectively invited them to now apply for similar waivers and implied that their prior flaunting of FCC rules will be ignored. This is exactly what we meant when our letter spoke of concerns about asymmetric regulation. – AT&T Senior VP Jim Cicconi

I have to imagine that T-Mobile is getting a bit of a chuckle out of the AT&T soapbox as T-Mobile is clearly the WiFi Calling pioneer, having offered the service in some form for years now.  The FCC has yet to bring a case against T-Mobile on this topic, so AT&T does appear to have some sour grapes.  There has been speculation as to why AT&T did not elect to deploy the WiFi Calling service. The FCC was not insisting carriers get the waiver for RTT and popular tech sites have pointed out the marketing value in throwing T-Mobile under the bus while appearing to be the carrier to offer WiFi Calling “the right way”.  After all, a good marketing spin might be necessary as T-Mobile is gaining a ton of subscribers with their UnCarrier model.  Green-eyed monster or not, we are thrilled that the AT&T WiFi calling feature will soon be offered to all AT&T subscribers and that AT&T sees the value of WiFi calling – or at least the market demand for it…

WiFi Calling Gets Carrier Support in UK – AT&T Support Updates

wifi-calling-menuWiFi Calling is continuing to make headlines in the U.S. and the UK with carriers on both sides of the Atlantic continuing to scramble to support the feature to meet consumer demand.  WiFi Calling has proven to be of huge benefit especially to owners of large residential buildings that experience poor voice coverage.

Here are the biggest WiFi calling news headlines from the last week:

AT&T Waits for FCC Approval: The latest update from AT&T seems to be that the average customer will have to wait a bit longer for the feature to be active while AT&T waits for FCC approval.  As we have been reporting, the iOS 9 update was available for public beta from Apple and many AT&T customers had the ability to use the WiFi calling features.  Those customers that had access to the WiFi calling feature in public beta will still be able to use it.  AT&T’s statement about the delay: “AT&T tested WiFi Calling through the iOS 9 beta and we are prepared to support commercial launch of the service once approved by the FCC”.  According to AT&T, the FCC needs to approve the RTT (real-time text) feature which is a system used for hearing impaired users.

EE Releases WiFi Calling – Vodafone Plays Catch Up: EE has released WiFi calling.  According to techradar.com, EE customers can already utilize the feature if they are using a compatible device.  As for Vodafone, network support should be available for the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge in the coming weeks.  UK carriers Three and O2 offer support for WiFi calling as well, however it is in the form of a mobile application and is not native to the device.  The Three and O2 solutions are still an upgrade from OTT apps like Skype and Viber, however, due to their use of the phone number native to the subscribers device.  As for seamless roaming between WiFi and cellular for EE and Vodafone customers, it is not yet available.  EE has positioned itself as a leader in working on a solution for seamless hand-off between WiFi and cellular, however it will not be available until EE switches over to VoLTE later in the year.

Ericsson Announces Support For WiFi Calling On Non-Cellular Devices: Ericsson has expanded it’s WiFi calling offering to include tablets and laptops when a subscriber downloads software to their now cellular device. This new Ericsson offering follows a recent consumer report on WiFi Calling produced by Ericsson consumer labs.  The July report made consumer adoption of native WiFi calling very clear with 61% of respondents claiming to now make more frequent and longer voice calls over WiFi calling and half saying that they are moving away from OTT apps like Skype in favor of WiFi Calling.

For more information on WiFi Calling for residential and commercial buildings, contact: marketing@spotonnetworks.com


One More Thing Multifamily Owners Should Consider Before Starting Major Renovations…

architect and foreman in front of a buildingJust read MFE’s article: 4 Things Multifamily Owners Should Consider before Starting Major Renovations.  Granted, the article was more about keeping renters happy during renovation and construction and less about technology’s place during the construction phase, but it got me thinking anyway.  Major renovations on existing buildings are the perfect time for building owners to think about cabling and to implement a cabling plan to future proof their buildings.  Obviously, the perfect time to think about cabling is pre-new construction with an extensive and comprehensive cabling plan, but renovation time is another ideal opportunity to get existing buildings wired for current and future technologies.

We hear this issue often: a building owners spends millions of dollars constructing a new build or renovating an existing one without any cabling plan.  It is often after construction is finished that we are contacted to outfit the property with wireless.  Unfortunately this creates a problem for building owners who end up having to drill into new walls, find room for telecom equipment and aesthetically pleasing places for access points.  Even with the proliferation of wireless devices, cabling is often completely overlooked with no cable having been pulled to the units.  Obviously this is a completely preventable issue that can cost building owners a lot of unexpected dollars and time.  The sooner we can get involved with your new construction or renovation plans to advise on the proper cabling scenario, the smoother the cabling process will go and the happier the resident will be  (less delays and better support for technologies) and the happier the building owner will be (less money spent and the more seamless the result).

We advise that building owners seriously consider a comprehensive cable plan either pre-construction on a new build or anytime major renovations are being planned to save time and money.  A proper cabling plan allows building owners to wire their buildings not only to provide residents and staff with the necessary access to support today’s technologies, but the right cable pulled to the right places can ensure that the building is future-proofed for future needs.  A good cabling plan will provide modularity for the incorporation of data and voice services as well as provide adequate support for IoT.

To request a copy of our Cable Future Proofing for Building Owners White Paper, please email: marketing@spotonnetworks.com

5 WiFi Traps Building Owners Should Be Aware Of

  1. wifi-trapMultiple Physical Networks.  A well designed WiFi network can and should support all of your wireless needs on one centrally managed, physical network using intelligently designed Virtual Local Area Networks.  This includes data, voice, staff services, security, IoT, etc.  An in-building wireless solution should not include putting up a new network to support different solutions.  Multiple networks are not sustainable, too difficult to support and can cost building owners.  Beware the service provider that suggests a new network every time you need support a new wireless service or piece of equipment.
  2. Recommending Individual Routers As An In-Building Voice Solution.  This one is obvious but important.  With AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint  supporting WiFi calling and Verizon on the way, WiFi is clearly the future of voice.  In order for VoWiFi to truly work as an in-building voice solution the network architecture needs to be designed to limit the interference that can occur with multiple routers in the same space – like in an MDU/ MTU scenario while providing adequate and consistent coverage.  In addition, routers used for WiFi calling need to have QOS and voice packet prioritization to ensure call clarity.  Read more details about the proper architecture needed for a reliable WiFi calling network here.
  3. You Should Have Insight To Your Network Performance.  Wireless can appear to be a bit of mystery, but that should not stop you from knowing how your networks are performing and the status of your equipment.  A good WiFi provider should have proprietary applications that they use to monitor and diagnose the networks they build and support.  You, as the building owner, should have insight into those applications for equipment status, reporting, etc.  The proprietary part is important because you want a wireless provider who is developing insight features based on you, the customer, not a provider that is dependent on the development timeline of a third party.  If your provider cannot offer you insight, it’s time to look elsewhere.
  4. Marketing Agreements As A Barrier To Property-Wide VoWiFi.  Many building owners are unable to offer property-wide WiFi Internet access to their residents due to marketing agreements with cable providers.  So where does that leave building owners who want to offer property-wide voice coverage over WiFi?  It’s simple: using the one physical network approach a WiFi network can be designed to offer dedicated WiFi calling on one VLAN and subscription based data services on another.  A good WiFi provide has the ability to both design this type of network as well as ensure that on the VoWiFi side, data services are not accessible.  This approach also provides the building owner with a revenue opportunity on the data side.  Case In Point: Marketing agreements are NOT a barrier to providing your residents with VoWiFi coverage.  
  5. Under Valuing The Benefits Of Ongoing Monitoring and Management.  We have seen it time and time again: a building owner does not consider the importance of remote monitoring and support of the network and uses a DIY approach.  The list of issues that occur with DIY networks are many, I have listed a few below – but the takeaway here is – WiFi networks in an MDU/ MTU space are complex and need constant remote support and diagnostics for optimum performance AND users will undoubtedly need Customer Support to assist them:
    1. Supporting the resident/ tenant issues that can occur takes staff away from property operations costing time and money.
    2. Network problems that occur are difficult to diagnose often resulting in the need to call in a technician to the property.
    3. Supporting new technologies becomes a nightmare.  DIY networks are typically not modular and don’t take into account future technologies.
    4. The network is not built with a secure technology like UserSafe, leaving users vulnerable to hacking and identity theft.

We hope you enjoyed our 5 WiFi Traps list – if your property needs information about In-Building wireless and/ or voice solutions, contact us: marketing@spotonnetworks.com or 203-523-5210


Apple EIP Offers Unlocked iPhone – Puts Carrier Choice In Consumer Hands

Exciting news for consumers on the iPhone front, Apple’s new iPhone Upgrade Program (starting at $32.00/ month) offers consumers an unlocked iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus with the option to upgrade to the latest iPhone every year.  These unlocked phones support service from all four major carriers: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint and is a huge move towards giving consumers choice and allowing them the benefits of upgrading their phone every year without being tied to a carrier.

Equipment installation plans (EIP) from the major carriers have risen in popularity since first introduced by T-Mobile a couple of years ago and allow consumers to pay for their phone in monthly installments tacked onto their plans.  While popular, the obvious downside to the EIP approach from carriers is that you are tethered to the carrier or need to buy out the phone and service contract, if you have one.  With Apple’s new iPhone Upgrade Program, your iPhone will be interchangeable between carriers – so basically, you are free to get the service plan you want.  Obviously, this is a major shakeup for the carriers and will force some serious service competition.  Customer loyalty will shift to Apple first, carrier second.

While I have yet to see any statements from AT&T or Verizon on Apple’s new program, T-Mobile, with their “UnCarrier” philosophy has expectedly come out in support of Apple.  T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert, in a statement, “We love this.  Anything that gives customers total choice is a win for them and is a win for T-Mobile,” Sievert went on to say, “Unlocked phones give consumers the freedom to try out any carrier.  That is a fantastic thing for T-Mobile too”.  T-Mobile has seen growth and success with their anti-carrier, pro-consumer marketing approach, so their support is not surprising and makes sense.  For consumers that have considered trying T-Mobile but fear leaving their carrier due to having a T-Mobile device, this unlocked iPhone approach might be the push they need to try T-Mobile out.

Millennial Cord Cutting A Scary Reality for Cable MVPDs

Millennial Cord Cutting A Scary Reality for Cable MVPDs


Image Credit: Pacific Crest

A grim reality has set in for MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors) a.k.a. the Cable Companies, with the release of new numbers from Wall Street data firm, Pacific Crest.  The data is staggering, with some reporters referring to a “cord-cutting apocalypse”.   The new numbers show a reduction in cable subscriptions that over tripled from Q2 of last year.  Subscriptions fell 141,000 in Q2 of 2014 and then took a nose dive in Q2 of this year with a loss of 463,000 subscriptions.  This is no fluke, either.

Clearly the trend, especially among millennials, has been to forgo an expensive cable subscription for application subscriptions like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.  In addition, TV shows being produced and released by companies like Netflix are seeing large success and drawing big name actors.

In 2009 the number of U.S. households with cable subscriptions peaked with almost 90% of households having a subscription with a Top 8 Cable provider.  As of Q2 of 2015 that number has dropped to around 76%.  In response to the dropping numbers, Cable companies scrambled to offer “skinny bundles” that allowed a bit more control over the channels being purchased and a reduction in bundle prices.  These offerings (i.e. Sling TV) have seen little little interest, which companies like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are seeing subscription growth between 20 – 45%.

Millennials believe in having control over content that they specify and having access to it all of the time and while they are willing to spend and spend big on technology, they are frugal and savvy when it comes to contracts and having to pay for what they don’t use.    The trend towards cord-cutting is very black and white and building owners are becoming aware of resident preference for property-wide wireless access to support cord-cutting service, voice calling and of course, provide internet access.

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