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.
It’s a fact CCRC providers know and know well. Studies show that Seniors who have more time with loved ones are simply healthier and happier than Seniors who are lonely. A huge part of the emotional battle for both Seniors and their loved ones in regards to moving into a CCRC, and changes like moving from Independent to Assisted Living, is the fear of being alone, or being forgotten and of losing touch with love ones. Offering property-wide Internet access, technology classes and device time for Seniors can help them to stay connected to family and friends, view more family photos, engage on social media and access more activities that will aid in emotional and physical well-being.
Technology has become a major contributor toward improving the quality of life of seniors living in CCRCs. In 2015 a provider who offers technology to residents in the form of property-wide WiFi, device usage or classes on social media/ how to use technology, is going to have a huge advantage over a community that either does not offer technology or leaves it up to the resident to set up their own technology. Families will be happy to know that their loved one’s new home will allow them to be connected online, have a way to access family pictures on Facebook, family blogs and email threads . Senior’s loved ones will also be happy to know that when going to visit their loved ones, children and grandchildren will have access to the technology they need to stay connected to work and family while visiting.
As for devices, WiFi enabled smartphones and tablets have truly simplified the process of using the Internet for all walks of life. The “app” model makes it easy for Seniors to access things like Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Games, etc. by simply touching an icon. Another big benefit of seniors using WiFi and social media to stay connected is that the connection is real-time. While pictures are wonderful, they can also create a sense of melancholy as they are in the past, but social media is real-time and allows seniors to feel as though they are living in the moment with their loved ones.
For years WiFi has consistently been named as the most requested hotel amenity by travelers and a huge determinant in where guests book and how they rate their stay at a hotel. But what about the cost of charging for WiFi? Hotelier.com’s recent article: The High Cost of Charging for WiFi, concludes that hotels simply cannot afford to charge for WiFi or offer tiered service where free means “slow and unreliable”.
In 2015, as the article points out, today’s travelers rely on WiFi as a basic service that allows them to keep in touch with work, family and friends and this service is no longer an amenity but “as basic as bathrobes and body wash”. In fact may hotels would probably benefit from forgoing soaps and shampoos and investing in some high quality WiFi. A recent IHG poll of 10,000 business travelers had 60% of the respondents calling out FREE WiFi as the single most important feature of the room.
So what does all these mean for hotel owners? Clearly hotel owners struggle with the costs associated with providing free, high quality WiFi to guests. This is a struggle that hotel owners can sympathize with, but as Kristine Rose, VP of brands for Hyatt pointed out, “Internet connectivity is no longer an amenity. It has become an integral part of travelers’ daily lives and a basic expectation. Travelers shouldn’t have to remember which brands or locations offer it for free or the strings attached to get it”. Hyatt was the first non-luxury major brand to offer free WiFi to it’s guests and the brand sees the decision as an absolutely necessary one.
While one major traveler concern is that the WiFi be free – the other major concern is that the WiFi be fast and reliable. For hotels that advertise free WiFi but provide a slow, unreliable service, the negative impact on guests can be just as great as not offering it at all. In fact, many guests simply will not return to a hotel after a bad WiFi experience. High quality, managed WiFi is a must and hotel owners need to look to proven WiFi brands, like Spot On Networks, to ensure that 1) the guest experience is a positive one and 2) that network issues that do occur are handled quickly and do not interfere with hotel operations.
WiFi calling news has started the New Year off with a major bang. The big news in Q3/ Q4 of 2014 was of course the announcement of support for WiFi calling for all 4 major carriers and WiFi calling enabled on iOS 8. Are the carriers too late though? That is the question being asked by some industry experts who speculate that there are much bigger WiFi calling things at work here – primarily in the form of cellphone service that focuses on providing the best user experience with a large focus on WiFi calling(Finally!!!). For the multifamily and assisted living industries, primarily, WiFi calling will have a major impact on the services expected by residents and tenants. While both industries have been burdened by indoor cellular coverage issues that have up until now required expensive in-building cellular solutions, WiFi calling will allow building owners to provide residents and tenants with property-wide coverage for a price drastically less than DAS or CellBoost®.
Both Google and Cablevision are preparing for releases of two major product offerings that are sure to be wireless industry game changers. with Cablevision’s service utilizing WiFi first as a platform for voice, data and text. Here’s the skinny on the two offerings:
Cablevision: Cablevision is starting a WiFi-only mobile phone service called “Freewheel” which will allow for unlimited data/ talk/ txt for $9.95/ month for Cablevision subscribers and $29.95 for non-subscribers.
Google: Google’s service would utilize T-Mobile, Sprint and WiFi, locating the best available signal for voice, text and data usage. This service will be offered nationwide and is expected to be rolled out in the first half of the year.
Both of these offers are massive shakeups to the wireless telecom industry and projects of what is to come. For years the public has lacked choice in wireless and have been victims to the four major carriers and their exclusivity agreements. The introduction of the WiFi unlicensed spectrum to the voice industry will undoubtedly provide the public with more choice and the market with more competition. There have been start-up attempts to release WiFi-first devices by companies like Scratch Wireless and Republic Wireless, however these two offerings are the first major products from large, non-carriers.
Wireless experts are taking note of the impact that this “disruptive” technology will have on the industry and the companies themselves:
It’s a very aggressive move,” said Dave Fraser, CEO of Devicescape, a company that is stitching together a network of millions of WiFi hotspots worldwide. “You can image Google driving down the price to be disruptive and paying for it with revenue from other services that the company already provides, like search and advertising.”
To read more about this exciting wireless industry news: http://adage.com/article/media/google-cablevision-aim-upend-wireless-industry-wifi/296810/
Do you remember the days of dial-up, the tedious process of connecting to America Online, that “You’ve got mail” alert signaling a piece of digital correspondence you have received while you were “off-line”? Most travelers who travled for business in the AOL era knew the headaches of rigging up connections to get news and stocks updates on their oversized laptops. The aforementioned concept seems almost foreign in 2014. In the ever-connected world of smartphones, tablets, lightweight laptops, internet users demand unlimited bandwidth, free wifi, unlimited downloads and virtually no disconnection times. And for various reasons, WiFi has topped every other amenity in the hotel industry.
A survey recently conducted by AMBA Hotels, the newest 4-star brand in UK, has found that free and fast WiFi tops the list of amenity factors that guest base their booking decisions on. Surveying 1000 participants, 67% stated the WiFi was the most important factor in their booking decision. It topped even a good night’s sleep at 58%, as well as friendly staff, which came in at much lower 40%.
Guest ranked free WiFi as well as hotel’s location as the most important factors. 84% of guests reported suffering from the lack of fast WiFi. 33% stated that slow hotel internet has cause them to miss out on important work emails and 8% spoke of loss of business by not being able to communicate with their clients. 34% stated they wanted faster WiFi with unlimited downloads.
As we have mentioned in the past, the building out of Comcast’s Xfinity WiFi network is being accomplished primarily through the activation of a second Xfinity WiFi SSID on consumer routers. This practice has many consumers unhappy and questioning how it can be that Comcast is using its customers resources for it’s own gain: “Comcast Thinks Its Okay To Install Public WiFi In Your House” A class action lawsuit has just been filed in California against Comcast. Comcast never received authorization from its customer to broadcast a second public SSID from their homes and the lawsuit claims that:
“Indeed, without obtaining its customers’ authorization for this additional use of their equipment and resources, over which the customer has no control, Comcast has externalized the costs of its national Wi-Fi network onto its customers,” the court filing says. “The new wireless routers the Company issues consume vastly more electricity in order to broadcast the second, public Xfinity Wi-Fi Hotspot, which cost is born [sic] by the residential customer.” Comcast sued for creating public hotspots using private wireless routers — RT USA
For those who are unaware of the secondary Xfinity SSID – Comcast is working on building out its WiFi network, with a target of 8 million Xfinity WiFi hotspots accessible to Comcast subscribers. These hotspots are not actually being built out by Comcast, they are being broadcast from paying subscribers home routers. These SSIDs are being broadcast “opt-out” which means that they are broadcasting an Xfinity SSID as default in addition to the personal SSID of the Comcast subscriber. Many consumers are not even aware that this is occurring, they simply see an Xfinity SSID when they scan for available WiFi networks and assume that it’s location is somewhere else – they don’t even realize it is being broadcast from their own home. While consumers are technically able to “opt-out” from the secondary SSID, consumers are complaining that the opt out process is complicated, Comcast employees don’t know how to advise it and the links to opt-out are not even working. While there are certainly questions as to the ethics of Comcast’s practices, there are also very valid concerns about the service impact on Comcast subscribers:
1. Utilizing Customer Resources For Their Own Gain: In addition using a router that the customer is paying for to build out their own network, Comcast is utilizing customer resources like electricity. So a customer is paying a portion of their electric bill to cover Comcast’s WiFi network.
2. Service degradation: Because a router only has one bandwidth pipe going into it (bandwidth which the customer pays for based on their plan) that bandwidth is shared between the two SSIDs. This can cause a decrease in service to the customer if a stranger logs on to the Xfinity SSID. This is something that Comcast recognizes, stating that because WiFi is a shared spectrum experience, there will be, “some impact as more devices share the network.”
3. Security: With hacking and spoofing an ever increasing threat to our personal security, of course consumers are deeply concerned about having strangers accessing WiFi on their personal router. While Comcast, of course, is attempting to minimize the threat to security saying they utilize the same encryption as financial institutions, with companies like Home Depot, Bank of America, Chase and Target in the news for breach of personal security due to hacking – customers should be very concerned about what is Comcast is doing.
This is a big problem for Comcast subscribers in the MDU space whose secondary SSID could potentially be broadcast to very large amounts of people at any given time. Until it become more clear as to what the legal implications of Comcast’s behavior might be, it is important that consumers be aware and know that they can contact Comcast to get this secondary SSID shut off. Taken from the Comcast website:
How do I disable/enable the XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot feature?
- We encourage all subscribers to keep this feature enabled as it allows more people to enjoy the benefits of XFINITY WiFi around the neighborhood. You will always have the ability to disable the XFINITY WiFi feature on your Wireless Gateway by calling 1-800-XFINITY1-800-XFINITY. You can also visit My Account at http://customer.comcast.com/, click on “Users & Preferences”, and then select “Manage XFINITY WiFi.”
A recent article from fiercewireless.com addressed what wireless operators are calling: “The Next Big Frontier”: WiFi Calling. Ruckus Wireless CEO Selina Lo was asked to comment on the industry excitement surrounding WiFi calling and expressed her belief that WiFi calling will be a “long term trend”: “WiFi calling is definitely going to be a game changer in terms of service provider business models. T-Mobile was the ground-breaker in terms of seeing the potential for WiFi as a vehicle for voice services, though their vision was early in the market when they debuted Hotspot@Home WiFi calling (which was discontinued around 2010). T-Mobile’s pioneering, however, allowed them to be at the forefront of WiFi calling when the market was ripe and be the first carrier to say it will support WiFi calling on the iPhone. Verizon and AT&T followed suit announcing that their networks will support WiFi calling in 2015 – the largest carriers simply can’t ignore the demand for seamless WiFi calling.
WiFi calling has been around for quite awhile, in one fashion or another, but the difference is that now the market is ready to take WiFi calling mainstream and WiFi calling has carrier support. It is the seamless carrier experience that will allow WiFi calling to garner mainstream acceptance. Dave Fraser, CEO of Devicescape, was quoted in FierceWirelessTech discussing the market change:
“Being able to make voice calls over WiFi is the final thing that you weren’t able to do… Your data worked over WiFi the same as it did over cellular, all your apps worked the same, but making a voice call never worked. You had to use and over-the-top application like Skype. Now with this being completely seamless, you can do everything on WiFi that you can do on cellular, and its also waking up all the large operators. They’re looking now at how WiFi can be combined with their traditional network, so it’s a very good sign of things to come, and we are wonderfully enthusiastic about it.”
It is hard to comprehend how huge the last 6 months have been for the wireless industry. With the cellular carriers no longer having control over voice a whole slew of voice options are open for industries that are wrought with poor cellular coverage, namely MDU/ MTU buildings and commercial properties. If you are interested in a WiFi calling network for your property, contact us.
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
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.
WiFi 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.
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)”