Providing the Best Internet Service to Students: Industry Voices
There are many reasons why an off-campus student housing resident may be unhappy with their internet service. In the student housing industry, it’s long been understood that poor internet service is one of the leading causes of resident dissatisfaction and that this can lead to lower renewal rates and ultimately lower economic and physical occupancy.
What isn’t so well understood is how to make sure that residents are happy with their service, and thus improve retention and maximize NOI.
There are many obvious problems that can be fixed; the ones that are not immediately obvious can be the ‘silent killers’ that are causing disruption and discontent. Usually these relate in one way or another to wireless (wi-fi) access.
Here’s a typical problem – you have a 500 bed student housing property with a decent amount of bandwidth delivered on fiber, and a solid wired network. You don’t provide wi-fi, but you let residents bring their own if they want wireless. However, your resident surveys consistently complain about the internet (slow, drops connections). You have a stream of people in the leasing office with the same complaints. You call your wired network provider, and they tell you everything is fine. What’s going on?
Here’s the problem: you have anywhere from 200 to 500 unmanaged wireless routers in close proximity to each other, sometimes only a matter of inches apart. Most of them are using default settings and maximum power, and the noise from them is interfering with all the others. This just doesn’t work.
The resident, though, sees full bars for signal strength on their iPad, so when the connection drops (because of the interference and noise from all the other wireless routers), he or she is going to blame the property’s internet. It’s not fair, but it’s what happens.
The solution is to install a managed wireless network at your property, so you can control the wireless quality and hence resident satisfaction. But how do you now stop residents using their own wireless routers? The problem still exists, and you can’t persuade them to use the property wireless because it ‘doesn’t work’ either.
Paying close attention to residents bringing in their own wireless routers at move-in can help, but if you can’t quickly and completely solve the problem, residents will just plug in their own wireless routers again, and you’re back to square one. Even if you started out originally with a good managed enterprise-class wireless network, residents will still bring their own devices.
It’s because of this problem that Campus Technologies Inc. (CTI) started researching technical solutions to the problem. There were some established tools and techniques used by Enterprise wireless systems that can identify unauthorized or ‘rogue’ wireless devices such as routers, but that still leaves the problem if suppressing them. The Over The Air or OTA termination system implemented by some manufacturers was imperfect and generated a high profile complaint and settlement in 2014, rendering it unsafe to use.
In the end, CTI had to develop a unique and proprietary solution that did not use radio waves to suppress rogue wireless routers. Installed in the management gateway on CTI managed networks, all rogue routers can be rendered unusable at the flick of a switch. Now deployed on all CTI networks, it has reduced the incident rate of rogue routers by over 90 percent, improving resident satisfaction and ultimately improving retention and NOI, which makes everybody happy. CTI’s rogue suppression technology is installed at no charge on all CTI managed networks.
— Andrew Marshall is CEO of Campus Technologies Inc. The company is a next generation student housing managed network service provider, active in thought leadership in anticipating, designing and deploying the very best technology facilities that today’s student residents demand.