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In Multifamily Buildings, Traditional Cable Is Out, Connected Community Is In


For millennials and the members of Gen Z, WiFi access has never been an issue. At home, their parents configured a WiFi network, and they just logged right on. As they explored their college campuses, a single network followed them around.

Now, those 20-somethings are renting their first apartments. And if the buildings they choose only offer traditional cable, they could be in for a rude awakening.

“Many of these renters have never had to install a router, or pay a cable company before: the WiFi has always just worked,” Boingo Wireless Senior Vice President Doug Lodder said. “Their expectation is that in their apartment, their WiFi should work just like it did growing up.”

WiFi and cellular strength have become deciding factors for renters choosing apartments. In response, providers like Boingo are pioneering a different approach to connectivity, allowing owners and developers to shape their buildings around wireless utilities rather than adding them as an afterthought. 

Bisnow sat down with Lodder to discuss how consumer expectations are changing and what developers and owners can do to be ready for the 5G era. 

Bisnow: How has the consumer mindset around technology changed?

Lodder: Over the last two decades, digital disruption has touched almost every industry. Devices have become smaller and speeds have become faster. Many multifamily residents have cut the cord and some work full time from home. They expect technology to guide their mobile lifestyles both in their apartments and on the go.

This connected mindset has fundamentally changed the housing market. Analog tools like thermostats and lighting are now becoming digital. In turn, properties are prioritizing digital at every step of the resident journey, from helping residents find and lease a unit to connecting their mobile lifestyle at every touchpoint.

Boingo Senior Vice President Doug Lodder

Bisnow: How can property owners prepare themselves for digital disruption?

Lodder: It’s all about connectivity. Connectivity is like oxygen for residents, so property owners should start by rethinking wireless. Wireless can’t just be a separate paid service. It has to be a built-in amenity. Ninety-three percent of renters rank high-speed internet as a top priority, and 78% of renters say they won’t rent without reliable cell reception inside. 

But a strong technology package is more than just having good reception: It has to be seamless and easy. Residents don’t want to sign in to a different network every time they use the gym or an on-site coworking space. By unifying all those networks, developers can eliminate those frustrations. 

Properties need to start providing wireless everywhere throughout their campus: the gym, the garage, the pool, I’m talking connectivity corner to corner.

Bisnow: What are the challenges facing multifamily connectivity today?

Lodder: Traditionally, multifamily buildings have left residents to fend for themselves. That system doesn’t serve the needs of residents or owners.

Residents don’t want the hassle of bundled packages, contractual commitments and appointment-based installations. They want convenience and coverage everywhere in their building from the moment they step on a property.

Currently, owners don’t have much control over the quality and performance of wireless service, or the customer experience. Residents could be moving out solely because they don’t like their wireless service, and owners would never know.


Bisnow: How can Boingo help?

Lodder: When a property owner signs up to work with Boingo, we can light the entire building up with connectivity, end to end. Residents get great service everywhere.

Having that single network also speeds along digital transformation. Gartner predicts that the Internet of Things will connect 20.4 billion devices by next year. If your building wants smart locks and smart thermostats, but every resident has their own WiFi network, you will need to reset every single feature every time a resident vacates. If your building operates on a single network, that’s never an issue.

The traditional infrastructure that buildings have now will not be enough to sustain demand in the 5G era. Preparing for 5G means increasing fiber density and leveraging new bands of licensed, unlicensed and shared spectrum, like CBRS [Citizens Broadband Radio Services]. 

We know exactly where the wireless industry is heading, and we can help owners plan and stay adaptable for the coming changes. Owners can focus on their business plan for the next decade, and we’ll worry about delivering an exceptional resident experience.

Bisnow: What can residents — and owners — expect from a connected property powered by Boingo?

Lodder: Residents and their guests can expect high-speed internet in their apartments and seamless connectivity throughout common areas, as well as options for HDTV channels. They can also expect a 24/7 help desk with an average wait time of less than two minutes.

What we hear from owners, like Camden and its Camden Design District in Dallas, where we power connectivity, is that their residents love having reliable service. But even more than that, they love being able to pay their internet bill right alongside their rent, with no long-term contracts or hidden fees.

It’s all about making residents’ lives easier. With Boingo, Camden has more control over the resident experience and can simplify one of their most in-demand amenities.

UPDATE: Boingo multifamily is now part of RealPage, a leading global provider of software and data analytics to the real estate industry

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Boingo Wireless. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.