Thursday, June 25, 2015

Welcome to Your New Apartment, Virtually

With virtual reality showing up in everything from immersive video games to high-tech condo sales centers, it will only be a matter of time before virtual becomes real in Apartment World. The folks at Popular Mechanics are highlighting a loft in London, where it’s so hard to find a decent apartment that there’s no way you’ll ever land this one. But only because it doesn’t actually exist. The oh-so-real virtual tour looks amazingly authentic. And while still a bit gimmicky now, these kinds of capabilities raise real and compelling possibilities for apartment owners. How about putting on a pair of VR glasses, and then giving your East Coast-based prospect a tour of her next apartment, only in San Francisco? Of course, to do so, you’ll need as robust an Internet infrastructure in your building as possible, an issue we’ll look at more closely in Part 2 of our examination of How Much Fiber is Enough?, coming soon. In the meantime, you can look at Part 1 here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Apparently, the FCC Was Serious About All That Net Neutrality Stuff

The big news this week is the FCC’s $100 million fine of AT&T for “throttling” its customers, which the Washington Post did a good job covering. Throttling is the practice of limiting subscribers’ download speeds after they reach a certain data threshold. For AT&T subscribers who paid for unlimited data, that meant streaming videos and other high bandwidth content eventually started slowing down. While not exactly the same issue targeted by the FCC’s net neutrality rule, which dictates that service providers can’t slow down the streams of one content provider over another, the FCC’s action on throttling has the same spirit to it: that everyone should be able to access everything at the same speeds, without service providers getting in the way. For its part, AT&T said the practice of throttling is widespread in the industry, and that the FCC knows this. While it’s not a great defense – everybody else is doing it, so why shouldn't we – it does raise the question of whether more throttling fines will come. Read the WaPo article here.    

Monday, June 15, 2015

MDU Geeks Unite!

Just a quick reminder about the Big News happening here at the the Multifamily Technology 360° blog. With your help, we've garnered enough readers to strike out on our own. So, going forward, we'll be coming at you from our new URL: MDU

You’ll still get all the apartment technology news and commentary you’ve grown accustomed to at Multifamily Technology 360, just at our fabulously geeky new URL: MDU

You can hit us up on Twitter, too via @MDUGeek.

Going forward, our sponsor, InfiniSys, will be taking over the URL, with a nice prominent link to MDU Geek, lest you forget.

But, maybe, just maybe, being one of our readers and therefore prone to a certain nerdy inclination, you've already bookmarked us? We can only hope. MDU Geek on!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How Much Fiber is Enough? Less Than You Think.

Multifamily Technology 360° Exclusive Guest Post

By Richard Holtz

An interesting thing happened at this spring's Broadband Communities Summit – I found myself having conversations with broadband proponents about how much fiber you really need to get gigabit service to an apartment unit.

Turns out, it’s not as much as apartment owners may have been led to believe.

While the marketing message from both service providers and amenity-crazed apartment consultants seems to say you absolutely need deep fiber all the way to the unit, that’s not really the case.

Here’s the secret that many of that those marketers don’t want you to hear: copper to the unit still actually works just fine. As long as certain key elements are in place, you can still deliver a gigabit experience without fiber all the way to the pillow.

A few of those elements include getting fiber to comm room; making sure the coax cable running between the comm room and the apartment doesn’t span more than 150 feet; having existing Cat 5e cabling in the walls; and putting quality gigabit capable switches and electronics in the comm room.

That’s important for a couple of reasons. One, it means that retrofitting an existing building today can be done more cheaply than you may have thought, since you may not have to start tearing into the walls, depending on what’s already there. That’s critical if you’re currently considering buying a building.

But two, and perhaps more importantly, if you don’t run fiber all the way to the unit, you can save on the costlier electronics that fiber demands.

For many of my colleagues, this message may seem heretical. After all, as a vocal proponent of widespread broadband adoption for most of my career, an argument against the commonly-accepted industry view that you can never have too much fiber could be viewed, at best, as a kind of backpedaling, and at worst, a betrayal to our common goal of broadband for all.

But that’s okay. I’ve never been someone who’s afraid to speak my mind, even if my views sometimes fly in the face of conventional wisdom.

The reason I’m doing so now is because I want apartment owners faced with making these decisions – who have heard nothing but fiber, fiber, fiber over the last decade -- to know the full range of their options, and the costs they’ll incur with each.

Basically, there’s no question about the value of deep fiber going forward. Taking fiber all the way to the unit is going to be your most future-proof option, for at least the next 20 years, if not more.

But to get gigabit speeds to the unit today, placing fiber optic electronics in a communications room, and running Cat 5e copper to the apartments themselves works just fine. In fact, you can get gigabit speeds over copper in this kind of set up without even breathing hard. You just need to make sure you have quality switches and electronics within your design. As I like to say, there are gigabit switches, and then there are gigabit switches. Do you know which is which?

An added bonus is that with copper, your service providers are less apt to squabble amongst each other over the different strands they run their services on, and won’t be able to point fingers at one another when things don’t work.

Going the copper route also helps owners of existing buildings do a retrofit at a lower cost point, because they don’t need as many of the more expensive electronics – the optical devices designed to transmit signals of light – that they would if they ran fiber all the way to the unit.

That’s another important point to consider, especially given how fast technology changes. If owners pay – or partner with service providers to pay – for the latest electronics to be placed inside each of their units today, they can potentially face costly amortization and depreciation issues down the road. Basically, the question becomes how do you amortize and depreciate the electronics fast enough to stay ahead of the curve?

The answer, in some cases, is that you can’t.

Now, as the cost of fiber optic electronics comes down, this issue will eventually solve itself. And when it does, going with deep fiber all the way to the unit will be a no-brainer.

But until that happens, owners should know that they have other, more cost-effective options that will work effectively to get residents gigabit speeds, without putting undue pressure on their pocketbooks.

No matter what die-hard fiber proponents and their marketers say.

Richard Holtz is CEO of InfiniSys.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Get Your Apartment Geek On!

Okay, we’d be lying if we didn’t say we’re just a little bit excited by this. With the growing popularity of the Multifamily Technology 360° blog, we’ve hit a threshold that’s going to allow us to become even more relevant and useful for you, our loyal readers. Taking a step that makes our inner nerd feel all warm and fuzzy, we are pleased to unveil our new URL: MDU

From now on, you’ll be getting all the news and commentary you’ve grown accustomed to at Multifamily Technology 360, just at our hipper, and yes, geekier, URL (aren’t they one and the same these days?) 

And of course, you can find us on Twitter via @MDUGeek.

For those of you connected to the business side of the apartment technology amenity space, you’ll still be able to link up with our sponsor, InfiniSys, at the URL.

Here’s to all the even geekier apartment technology news to come!

Thursday, June 04, 2015

This One (Almost) Goes To 11

Just as gigabit speed is becoming a must-have for apartments, Comcast has upped the ante. The company announced multi-gigabit speeds, including symmetrical 2 gbps service, coming to the greater Chicagoland area, according to an announcement posted on MarketWatch. Comcast claims that its “Gigagbit Pro” product will provide the fastest residential Internet available in the United States. But, not satisfied just to double the current speed threshold, Comcast also hinted that up to 10 gbps speeds might be available to apartment residents soon. The company said it “plans to offer a multi-gigabit fiber service through its Xfinity Communities program that serves residents living in multi-dwelling units such as apartment complexes. Comcast has been delivering multi-gig (up to 10 Gbps) Ethernet service to businesses in the region since 2011.” So, maybe this one doesn’t really go to 11, yet. But it might go to 10, soon.