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Managed WiFi Solutions for MDU / MTU, Hotel, Assisted Living, & Restaurants

Spot On Networks in Wired Magazine Article for Queensbridge Houses Community-Wide WiFi Network

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Spot On Networks Set To Bring Community-Wide WiFi To The Largest Public Housing Community in the United States

Spot On Networks deploying Queensbridge Connected, a community-wide WiFi network to Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, NY

Spot On Networks deploying Queensbridge Connected, a community-wide WiFi network to Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, NY

New Haven, CT November 07, 2016  The October issue of Wired Magazine features an article by Gideon Lewis-Kraus, entitled “Wiring the Unwired:” Inside the Battle to Bring Broadband to New York’s Public Housing, which details the community-wide WiFi network that is currently under development by Spot On Networks (SON) at Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, New York. The October issue of Wired was guest edited by President Barack Obama.

“Wiring the Unwired” discusses the importance of entrepreneurial companies, like SON and the development of disruptive technologies, such as SON’s managed property-wide UserSafe® WiFi, that can make communications technologies available to all at little or no cost. Lewis-Kraus also mentions the importance of the success of this project as being an integral part of smaller companies breaking into an “otherwise protected market”. The “predatory pricing” habits of telecom companies are also mentioned, which in some instances, allow telecom giants to make a margin on broadband services that can be as high as 90 percent despite offering inconsistent coverage that leaves many residents dissatisfied. Companies like SON and initiatives like the wireless broadband initiative at Queensbridge are essential to “bridging the digital divide” and making quality internet access, at little to no cost, available to everyone.

SON has also committed to employing a certain number of Queensbridge residents as a part of the city contract and the Wired article interviews two of these residents who are some of the first to be employed by SON. Lewis-Kraus states in his article, “Spot On emphasizes that it’s putting a lot of energy into working with the community; it’s not just deploying wireless, the company says, but creating local jobs to help maintain the service”.

Spot On Networks, the leading provider of managed wireless solutions to the U.S. multifamily/ multitenant industry was awarded a contract by The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) on behalf of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) that has made Spot On Network the Wireless Broadband Service Provider for Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, Queens, NY.

Dick Sherwin, CEO of Spot On Networks and 2016 Wireless Hall of Fame inductee stated, “We are honored to be bringing WiFi access to Queensbridge Houses”, he went on to say, “Along with Mayor de Blasio, we deeply believe that all New York City residents, regardless of income, should have access to secure and reliable wireless broadband. Wireless, high speed access is a utility that residents need to pay bills, look for jobs, do school work and even make phone calls. We are proud to provide NYC residents with the wireless internet access that is necessary to be successful and competitive in the Digital Age”.

Queensbridge is the largest public housing development in North America with 3,149 units and an estimated 7,000 residents across 26 clusters of 95 buildings in two adjacent complexes. The contract is to provide wireless internet speeds of up to 25 Mbps to each household as well as network monitoring and management with a 24/7 help desk for Queensbridge residents and staff. The Queensbridge WiFi network will include high speed wireless internet for laptops, smartphones and tablets, WiFi calling capability with Quality of Service and integration for the Internet of Things. The Queensbridge WiFi network will allow many residents to save money on comprehensive data services while having access to WiFi calling using their smartphones, thus comporting with the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline Report and Order of April 27, 2016 bridging the digital divide.

About Spot On Networks, LLC: Spot On Networks is the largest Wireless Internet Service Provider to the multifamily industry. In addition to offering its UserSafe® managed WiFi 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.

World Wi-Fi Day To Highlight Wireless Connectivity For Everyone As A Necessary Utility

The Wireless Broadband Alliance announced on January 14 there will be a “World Wi-Fi Day” on June 20, 2016, “an initiative that will accelerate affordable wireless connectivity around the world”.  This event will focus on the division between connected and unconnected societies and focus on the opportunities for societal advancement that wireless connectivity offers.

The goal of World Wi-Fi Day is ultimately to figure out a way to provide connectivity to everyone, everywhere.  Lack of connectivity is not only isolated to developing countries (where billions of people lack any connectivity) but is an issue in developed countries like the U.S.  Low income housing and urban areas contain hundreds of thousands of people who are still unconnected and even more do not have access to sufficient connectivity.  This lack of connectivity contributes significantly to decreased opportunity for certain populations.  World Wi-Fi Day is a call to action to get connectivity to these people and the Wireless Broadband Alliance is encouraging governments, operators, service providers, vendors and Internet giants everywhere to participate in this effort.

Spot On Networks is extremely proud to be at the forefront of building wireless networks that are geared towards providing secure and reliable wireless connectivity to the largest urban low income housing developments in the United States.  We fully believe that everyone should have access to secure, reliable and fast wireless connectivity.  Property owners, developers and governments now recognize the importance of providing wireless access to residents of their communities.   Wi-Fi, which used to be viewed as a nice-to-have amenity for urban residential properties, has become a necessary utility.

In addition to raising awareness, World WiFi Day will “celebrate the significant role Wi-Fi is playing in getting cities and communities around the world connected”.  With the proliferation of wireless devices and our dependence on Wi-Fi for Internet access, voice, streaming, security, home automation, social interaction – the digital divide continues to increase.  The good news is Wi-Fi has the ability to offer widespread, secure connectivity and with proper network management, it is possible to get people in urban areas connected the way the need to be in order to be competitive in an increasingly wireless world.

Next-Gen CCRCs Will Rely Heavily On Wireless Technologies and Community-Wide Connectivity

A mere five years ago, the idea that senior living communities would need to have a well thought-out wireless plan to support new technologies was hard to wrap one’s head around.  Sure, the high-tech senior was an interesting topic, but the need to seriously invest in supporting tech for seniors was certainly not a priority or necessity.

Times have changed.  Today’s Wall Street Journal article, written by Dr. Joseph Coughlin of MIT’s Age Lab, “How Technology Will Transform Retirement”,deemed that support for the Internet of Things for senior living services will, “become so convenient, and so vital to our care and well-being, that they will be a significant and necessary cost”.  The next generation of seniors to enter into retirement and CCRCs will be tech savvy and tech dependent with a focus on mobile connectivity and IoT.

The number of Americans living in senior care facilities is expected to double by 2030. With the tech dependent Boomer generation comes 70% of U.S. financial assets.  Put them together and you have a generation that uses technology and has the money to pay for upscale retirement facilities.

Staying connected to friends and family is arguably the most important benefit that seniors receive from technology.  Visual calling applications like FaceTime and Skype, social media and easy picture sharing applications like DropBox all help seniors to keep in-touch, not just verbally, but visually.  WSJ mentionsConnected Living, Inc., an online community that keeps senior living residents and their families connected.  More futuristic technologies, like eyeglasses that show reminders of who someone is and your last conversation with them, may not be so far off when you think of Google Glass.

Seniors are living longer, so living “better” and taking control over one’s own health and wellness as well as increasing communication between seniors and their health care providers is another big benefit.  Vitals monitoring, diet & exercise monitoring, medication dispensing, virtual consultations with doctors and appointment reminders are just a few of the services that are available to seniors.

Finally, “connected homes and communities” with futuristic IoT solutions are not just for millennials, they can improve quality of life and maintain independence for seniors.

In a multi-residential CCRC setting, intelligently architected wireless networks will be necessary to support the proliferation of wireless devices that will be descending on senior communities with the Boomer generation.  Investment in a wireless plan will increase the value and appeal of any senior living community as well as save senior living providers money in the long term.

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

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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.

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)

CellBoost® 

- 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.

 

 

Millennial Cord Cutting A Scary Reality for Cable MVPDs

Millennial Cord Cutting A Scary Reality for Cable MVPDs

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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.

Senior Living building owners realizing the necessity for commercial-grade WiFi

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One of the last residential industries to catch on to the installation of commercial-grade WiFi has been the Assisted and Senior Living industries, and understandably so.  With a considerably higher age demographic than the typical MDU/ MTU, which caters primarily to millennials, managers of Senior and Assisted Living properties are starting to see a real demand from both residents and their families for commercial-grade WiFi as both an amenity.  As more technologies that improve Senior Living operations become available, building owners have the ability to offset the cost of deploying WiFi by lowering operational cost and saving on energy usage.

According to an article from titled: “WiFi in Senior Living Becoming Necessary Investment” in Senior Housing News:

“Yet due to security concerns, a rising demand among residents, and an ongoing shift toward a host of web-based services designed to make senior living and care more efficient, providers are finding in some cases they can’t afford not to make the investment.”

  • Some properties do attempt to self-install routers to simply offer WiFi access in property amenity areas so that they can provide Internet to families and residents, but this approach can be wrought with serious issues, lack adequate device support and can cause properties headaches that distract from property management duties:
  • Security: WiFi security issues are very real and seniors are especially vulnerable to hacking and identity theft.  It is important to have a WiFi network backed by UserSafe technology to ensure that users on the network are guarded against hacking and identity theft.  Technologies, like UserSafe™, isolate each individual user on the network so that no other user can access their device or information.  This means that shopping, banking, email and surfing are all safe guarded.  This is not the case with a self-install WiFi router, even when password protected with encryption, users are still vulnerable and exposed.
  • Support: Building owners that have attempted to self-install their own WiFi networks can attest to what a mess it can quickly become.  WiFi is a technology that needs constant support, monitoring and maintenance to ensure a positive user experience.  Spot On Networks has an in-house NOC (network operations center) that monitors the WiFi network 24/7 so that we are made aware of and can address a problem typically before the user even notices.   This support is essential to property managers so they can focus on running their facility, not on WiFi problems.
  • Wireless Operations Add-Ons: New wireless technologies are being geared towards improving operations at Senior Living facilities.  Vitals, bed sensors, security systems, medication dispensers, patient tracking devices and energy management can now allow for wireless monitoring which allows for large operational savings and better operating efficiency.  A commercial-grade network is essential to these technologies due to the need for continuous network monitoring.
  • Resident and Family Demands:  The senior population is getting more tech savvy by the minute and is showing the same rate of increase as the rest of the population.  59% of seniors 65+ are online and 71% of those are online every single day.  In addition we are noticing more properties whose resident population wants WiFi access, not only for themselves, but for their visiting families.  Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren expect to have WiFi access everywhere – including when visiting relatives.
  • WiFi Calling: New smartphones are being built with the ability to make calls over WiFi the same way that you would over the cellular networks.  This is a huge plus for building owners who tend to have indoor cellular coverage issues inside their buildings.  This technology is predicted to be the next game changer in the wireless industry and will allow for very inexpensive voice coverage to be delivered throughout a building.  For residents and their families, having adequate indoor voice coverage is a necessity.  Quality WiFi calling can only be obtained with a commercial-grade WiFi network with QOS and voice packet prioritization.
  • Seniors and internet adoption

    Image source: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/

AT&T and WiFi calling

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A big announcement today from AT&T’s Ralph De La Vega: the carrier will support WiFi calling in 2015. See the story here:  http://www.cnet.com/news/at-t-plans-to-offer-wi-fi-calling-in-2015/

Of course De La Vega tried to downplay the significance with his statement that they “don’t have a burning desire for coverage.” Huh? Perhaps the thousand of building owners and millions of residents of Multi-Dwelling Uni (MDU) without coverage would probably disagree. Or perhaps the dozens of companies in the Distributed Antenna Space (DAS) who make millions installing systems because there’s a coverage issue might disagree. To be fair, much of the DAS work is about handling capacity problems (e.g. a stadium) not coverage problems.

Regardless, this is great news for consumers and comes only weeks after Apple announced iOS8 would support WiFi calling. It is also great news for building owners who might now consider WiFi calling as  the answer to in-building cellular problems. At a fraction of the cost of a a DAS, a WiFi network would handle voice plus data.

All U.S. consumers now need is for Verizon to step up to the plate. But with 3 of the 4 major carriers now supporting it, WiFi calling appears to gaining big momentum.

 

Verizon and WiFi Calling

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It appears a lot of interesting news came out of the Oppenheimer Technology, Internet and Communications Conference over the last few days. What I found most intriguing were comments by Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo, as reported by FierceWireless: http://www.fiercewireless.com/story/verizon-launch-volte-q4-delays-first-lte-only-phones-2016/2014-08-12?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal. (As an aside, FierceWireless is head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the technology reporting space).

As reported, Shammo said: LTE-only phones will now be out first half of 2016, not end of 2014. And then he’s quoted as saying “VoLTE doesn’t create a lot of incremental benefit.” And then Fiercewireless adds that Shammo says that “this year and into the future Verizon will focus on deploying small cells, Distributed Antenna Systems and other in-building coverage enhancements to improve its LTE network.

In the meantime, Spot On continues to hear from apartment owners with residents with zero cellular signal inside of their units. The solution isn’t the LTE tweaking that Shammo suggests but a very simple one: Verizon needs to support WiFi calling. Sprint and T-Mobile have embraced it. Consumers need the same from Verizon and AT&T. It would essentially provide owners with a cost effective way to solve in-building cellular problems and allow them to solve the problem today.

We recently highlighted the Smith Micro/Verizon announcement re the use of Netwise. We’re hopeful this middleware is not just for data offload from Cellular to WiFi but is the vehicle for Verizon’s support of WiFi calling…stay tuned.

Libraries lend WiFi hotspots

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    New York City, New York Public Library NYPL, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 1897-1911 : " Rose Main reading Room "

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Internet often ranks as a low-priority item on the list of low-income families. Unfortunately, children and adults from low-income households miss out on learning opportunities available to those living with in-home wired or wireless internet connections. Libraries provide a great alternative by offering internet to those who otherwise have no access to it. The problem is most libraries are not open 24 hours a day or schedules prevent people from getting to those computers during hours the libraries are open.

New York City, New York Public Library NYPL, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 1897-1911 : " Rose Main reading Room "New York and Chicago libraries have conducted studies that focused on lending portable hotspots to low-income families to help foster online learning opportunities. The process will take some time to fully function, but due to generous grants from Knight Foundation, libraries will begin to lend hotspots from 3 weeks to up to a year to allow children and adults take part in online learning. Although, Comcast has a program that allows in-home wired internet, this particular program gives people a way to use the internet wherever signal is available.

[Image credit: Vincent Desjardins, Flickr]

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