What We Learned About Managed Wi-Fi in the MDU/Multifamily Industry at OPTECH 2018

On a stormy mid-November morning in Orlando, the Eleven team arrived at the NMHC OPTECH Conference & Exposition in order to attend keynotes, learn at breakout sessions, and network with the top minds of the MDU/multifamily industry. As Eleven has been building a new solution for tenant Wi-Fi, industry events, like OPTECH, are a great place to learn more about the industry. Throughout the course of the three-day conference, our team soaked in as much information they could. Below we get a glimpse into the valuable insight that they gleaned and how the new ElevenOS MDU solution will be a catalytic force for network service providers in this industry.

We can learn from hospitality when it comes to tenant Wi-Fi

Creating a great tenant experience is similar to the work that hotel brands do to deliver a great experience for their guests. Today, hospitality-esque amenities are showing up in MDU, like property management apps in order to increase convenience and brand stickiness. Other technologies are becoming more common to benefit the overall living experience, including software that can manage tenants’ personal area networks to allow private devices to work together on a VLAN.

Overall, this demonstrates that property owners and management companies are styling themselves more like hotel brands. The logic here is that tenants will build an affinity toward particular MDU brands and look to them when transitioning living spaces. Further, there is a possibility to create brand evangelists that will assist in building the MDU brands’ customer bases. This indicates that the MDU brands are looking to hospitality as a blueprint for what a great tenant experience is and could be in the future. This goes beyond amenities as we see new business models cropping up in the MDU space, such as rent-by-room offerings targeting young adults leaving university.

There are three primary models for internet access at MDU

Speaking of business models, another learning was based around how service providers interact with MDU property owners. Similar to individual residential properties, there is a contingent of MDU groups that allow the tenant to be fairly autonomous and interact directly with a service provider of their choice.

  1. Non-Exclusive Provider: will be relatively familiar to any tenant who has dealt with cable companies such as Comcast, Frontier, AT&T, etc. While this grants a fair amount of independence to the tenant, this may frustrate and confuse some residents and, in some cases, lead to higher overhead costs while the property owner must oversee a network of varied hardware and software.
  2. Exclusive Provider: where the property owner enters into an agreement with a specific service provider. This B2B arrangement provides exclusivity for the provider and usually offers some discount for the owner. This also allows the owner to build networking costs into the lease, and limit confusion for tenants that do not want to deal with selecting their provider from the options that exist.
  3. Bulk Billing: where a service provider is contracted to design, build and manage the entire network infrastructure. This alleviates the management burden for property owners and often streamlines the network efficacy. In doing so, the provider must make more effort to manage many properties, the upwards of thousands at a time, across many geographies. Most of the time this requires software in order to centrally manage these disparate properties. Software such as ElevenOS assists service providers to authenticate users and provide real-time user management from a cloud-based UI.

Managed Wi-Fi is quickly becoming a competitive advantage

It appears quite evident that there is a new awakening happening in the MDU ownership community. Along with aligning itself to the hospitality industry, and expanding business models for growth, MDU owners are noticing the growth in demand for managed Wi-Fi. In fact, one owner attending OPTECH claimed that Wi-Fi has become the top amenity for 75% of their target market, only excluding senior citizens. Wi-Fi is no longer better left to tenants or a nice-to-have amenity, it is highly demanded by their customers. Due to the growth in bandwidth demand, internet-enabled devices, and the average age of internet users, managed Wi-Fi has become a necessity across all properties with long-term tenancy.

The OPTECH Conference offered further insight into a new industry in the world of Managed Wi-Fi. Technology use in the MDU space is rapidly evolving, and it is important to stay current with the many distinct use cases for Wi-Fi. The way people connect is of utmost importance in a space that people call home. The industry must progress in an innovative yet pragmatic way in order to build an ideal infrastructure. Leveraging the lessons from hospitality and hotel brands, we believe that the MDU industry can do just that, especially with the help of a SaaS platform like ElevenOS.