Internet access enters the apartment realm

High-speed Internet access is the most important amenity in the multifamily industry today. Residents are looking for communities that meet their lifestyle and career needs, want flexibility, and are selecting where to live based on the availability of technology amenities.

The business of Partner Communications & Services is to create value by entering into long-term contracts with apartment property owners that provide preferential rights for on-site marketing of the company's services. The property owners may participate in the revenue generated by their residents' use of the services, and therefore have an incentive to help Partner acquire and retain customers from their new and existing resident base.

Once a contract with a property is executed, the leasing agents are given basic training in the Partner program, including the simple task of signing customers up for the services as they sign their apartment lease. Partner also initiates a number of consumer-targeted marketing and sales programs on the apartment complex premises.

Operationally, Partner installs off-the-shelf equipment to create a high-speed Ethernet ring at the apartment complex, available to all apartment units and offices, and connects this on-property ring to the Internet via one or more T-1 connections. As each resident subscribes to Partner's services, the company's onsite technicians install network interface cards and the enabling software into the resident's computer. Internet access at speeds up to 1.544 Megabits is then available, as needed, for the customer's use.

Partner Communications & Services Inc. and Centerco Properties, both of St. Louis, have successfully implemented a 2.4 GHZ "wireless to the desktop" distribution system that provides high-speed mobile Internet access (up to 50 times faster than dial-up modems). The project's goals were to provide technological opportunities for residents and improve the efficiency of leasing office communications.

Though similar technology is installed in Sweden and at Carnegie Mellon University (recently highlighted in USA Today), Partner Communications believes this is the first implementation of high-speed wireless Internet at a garden-style apartment community with decentralized wiring anywhere in the world. Partner successfully integrated omnidirectional and point-to-point wireless antennas, an on-site router, wireless network interface cards, tier-1 Internet connectivity and ISP services to deliver "always on" mobile high-speed Internet at speeds up to 50 times faster than dial-up modems. The project was operational 25 days after Partner Communications was selected.

The "Powered by Partner" program provided Woodchase Apartments, in Chesterfield, Mo., technological opportunities for residents, cut costs and improved communications. In addition to the access speed, "Powered by Partner" is preferred over cable-modem technology because it is two-way (no dial return); residents don't need another phone line (about $25/month); and the bandwidth is not shared with thousands of cable subscribers.

Perhaps the most important feature of the property-specific "Powered by Partner" solution is the wireless and mobile feature. The wireless capability allows residents high-speed Internet access from anywhere in the apartment or on the community grounds without having an umbilical cord tied to a phone jack or cable outlet. This means that the resident can be online anywhere, anytime within their apartment, on their deck, at the gazebo, sitting by the pool or at a neighbors.

The "Powered by Partner" wireless solution caused no costly or disruptive rewiring of any kind. It also enabled Centerco to cut costs and improve communications because the service is free to the leasing office and the "always on" mobile high-speed connection enabled the property management team to more efficiently interact with headquarters on day-to-day operations.

"Powered by Partner" provides all work-from-home residents the ability to get business-class connectivity at home. Several companies are willing to pay for their employees' Internet access as speed increases their productivity while away from the office. Also, the resident now has a virtual extension of the local area network and high-speed Internet access they enjoy at work.

Partners' comprehensive program is unique because it includes technology neutral property-specific solutions, offers a one-stop shop, is flexible enough to accommodate various construction and wiring scenarios and requires no disruptive and expensive rewiring.

Partner understands resident satisfaction is more important than ancillary revenue, has in-depth telecommunications and Internet expertise, required no capital expenditures, includes revenue sharing and can coexist with existing phone and cable contracts.

Partner gave Woodchase Apartments a competitive advantage over other existing communities and new-builds in the area. Within hours of putting up the banners, onlookers began asking about the "Powered by Partner" program. So far, more than 20% of Woodchase's residents have stopped by the leasing office to inquire about the service and the demand and signups are ahead of Woodchase's projections.

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