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Property-Wide Wifi for Multifamily: 6 Questions To Ask Providers

By April 19, 2019 April 29th, 2019 Connected Buildings
property wide wifi homebase

More and more multifamily communities are cutting the cord on their ISP.

Property owners are opting for more control over their internet solution by leaving their ISP and installing their own property-wide wifi solution. Not only is the move making residents happier; it also makes properties more valuable.

Property-wide wifi has gained notable traction in recent years as residents have come to expect internet in common areas. For property owners and managers, however, choosing a network provider is easier said than done. Providers range from big cable behemoths like Xfinity to startups like Starry Internet, Apartnet, and Homebase, each with its own unique features and capabilities.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for property-wide wifi. Instead, owners and property managers should ask themselves these six questions when evaluating providers.

But first, let’s take a quick look at why property-wide wifi is so popular in the first place.

Why Property-Wide Wifi?

Is property-wide wifi worth the investment? For many multifamily owners, the benefits outweigh the costs.

Command Premium Rents

In a crowded multifamily market, property-wide wifi helps communities stand out. According to a survey by Entrata, the number one most desired amenity among renters is a “basic technology package” that includes high-speed internet. Moreover, 84% of survey respondents said they were willing to pay more for smart amenities.

Better Resident Experience

There’s a reason why residents are willing to pay more for smart amenities and high-speed internet. Property-wide wifi boosts the resident experience in three key ways:

  • Wifi in Common Areas. With property-wide wifi, it’s easy to offer connectivity in common areas. Give residents the luxury of wifi wherever they are, whether they’re hanging out in the gym or community coworking space.
  • Easy Setup and Management. No more scheduling appointments to set up the internet. Property-wide wifi is ready to go in each unit before move-in.
  • Upgrade Bandwidth at Any Time. Gamers and super streamers know how much bandwidth online content can take up. Residents can choose their bandwidth package and upgrade at any time from their resident app. It’s as easy as picking a movie on Netflix (maybe even easier).

Earn Additional Monthly Revenue

Every property-wide wifi provider has its own business model, but some let the properties earn monthly revenue from wifi subscriptions. It’s a significant upgrade compared to traditional wifi agreements with ISPs, where the most a property can expect is a one-time kickback when a resident signs up.

Ready for Autonomous Building Tech

This benefit is vendor-specific, but highly encouraged. While most providers see property-wide wifi as the end, others see it as the foundation for autonomous building tech. These forward-thinking providers also install secondary networks to connect smart devices, and an operating system for managing smart apartments.

No matter your motivation—whether it’s increasing NOI, improving the resident experience, or future-proofing your property—property-wide wifi is a transformational upgrade over traditional internet.  

wifi bandwidth packages for residents hombase

With property-wide wifi, residents can choose the bandwidth speed that fits their needs. Source: Homebase.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Property-Wide Wifi Provider

If you’re excited about bringing property-wide wifi to your community, it’s important to do your homework on the various options available. Providers range from large, multinational corporations to small, tech-savvy startups—and their solutions vary just as much.

Before selecting a managed service provider for property-wide wifi, here are six questions to ask them:

1. Can our property earn revenue from wifi subscriptions?

There are numerous types of business models for property-wide wifi, and each has its own perks and setbacks. Popular models include:

    1. Property pays for installation. Vendor gets subscription revenue. Some properties pay to install big-name services like Xfinity Communities so they can command premium rents. This model relies on the name recognition and exclusive content deals of the network provider. In some cases, the property will earn a one-time kickback when a resident signs up for the service.
    2. Vendor pays for installation. Vendor gets subscription revenue. Internet startups like Starry install hubs on properties and use a building’s existing wiring to deliver wifi to units. Properties are lured in by the free installation, but they lose the chance at recurring revenue and a deeper relationship with their residents. The ROI for this model is likely neutral or slightly positive from a hike in perceived rent value.
    3. Property pays for installation. Property gets subscription revenue. The final model has the highest upfront cost, but also the highest long-term ROI. In this model, properties pay for the wifi infrastructure, but also own the resident relationship and earn monthly revenue. The increased NOI provides a significant boost to a property’s cap value over time. Startups like Homebase and Apartnet use this revenue-generating model.

In model #3, property-wide wifi becomes more than a trendy amenity. It is a capital improvement that more than pays for itself. If your property can afford the upfront investment, the long-term ROI is significant.

2. Is This Solution Built for Smart Apartments?  

Autonomous buildings require more than just wifi. They also need a low-power network to connect devices locally, and an operating system to control and manage the property. Residents also need a way to manage their smart apartments, including paying rent, upgrading their wifi, and setting their smart thermostat.

Most network providers stop at just internet. Other solutions, like Homebase, are a complete smart apartment management provider. If you’re going to invest in property-wide wifi, why not future-proof your building at the same time?

3. Can We Provide Residents With Multiple Packages?

Residents love choice just as much as they love convenience. It makes sense from a cost-saving standpoint, too. Do you want to pay to deliver 200 MB/s of bandwidth to a resident who only needs five?

Some providers, like Starry Internet, offer a single package at a single price for all users. Other providers, like Xfinity and Homebase, allow residents to choose a bandwidth package that meets their needs.

With Homebase, properties can create the packages they want to offer. They can also let residents upgrade their package at a moment’s notice through their resident app.  

4. How Secure Is the Network?

Cybersecurity is a huge concern for multifamily properties, and rightfully so. Resident safety is THE top priority for every owner and manager, which includes a resident’s bank account and credit card numbers.

Don’t just assume the biggest companies have the best security (Looking at you, Facebook.) Ask providers to describe the security precautions they have in place for their network.

5. How Do You Ensure Resident Data Privacy?

Similarly, some residents (and property managers, too) might be concerned with data privacy on a shared network. Ask providers how they keep resident data separate and walled-off from the rest of the community. Even though it’s called property-wide wifi, it should never be a shared public network.

6. Who Manages the Network, Especially During Outages?

Some property-wide wifi vendors are just glorified IT contractors who install your network and leave you to manage it. Others provide ongoing support for both residents and staff.

Properties should ask providers who is in charge of day-to-day management and maintenance of the network, as well as customer support. While managed services cost more, they are much more affordable than you might think. They earn their keep when there’s an outage or pesky customer support issue.

Think about it like this: When you hired your staff, did you hire them for their IT skills? If the answer is no, then a managed wifi service provider is the best choice for you.

Getting Started with Property-Wide Wifi

Property-wide wifi is already the most highly-sought amenity among renters, but it can do so much more than lure residents. If done correctly, wifi can become a true asset for your property by increasing its NOI and long-term value. It also makes your building future-proof by laying the foundation for smart apartment and autonomous building technology.

Navigating the numerous options for property-wide wifi may seem daunting, but using the questions above will help you get the answers you need. Don’t just look for the cheapest short-term solution. Use this opportunity to invest in your property and your future.  

There’s a better way to do wifi. Are you ready to cut the cord on your ISP?

Ben Putano

Author Ben Putano

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