November 02, 2015

Student Housing Internet Delivery Design Best Practice: Reducing Access Friction

Student residents hate friction, they want to access whatever they want, whenever they want to, on whichever device they choose with no additional steps required between the initial thought and the final result. Student Housing Internet delivery systems should be designed for ‘zero friction’ in the User Experience (UX).

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By Andrew Marshall, Campus Technologies Inc, October 2015

The design of a student housing Internet access system, either wired or wireless, often includes the requirement for the student to log on to access the Internet, or to register the device that they are using to obtain permission to access the network.

The reasoning behind the need for login or registration is sound; the network operator wants to know who is accessing the network using which device so they can take remedial action if something goes wrong. Unfortunately this approach has two drawbacks: firstly it generates many help desk tickets, especially at the crucial movein period, and secondly, residents dislike it because the mechanisms used frequently get in the way. The typical student housing resident is looking for a completely frictionless experience.

fric·tion·less ˈfrikSHənləs/ adjective not impeded by or creating friction; smooth. 1. achieved with or involving little difficulty; effortless.

In most cases, thankfully, it is possible to operate a student housing network in a near-frictionless manner. Current network management tools and techniques give us the ability to remove the friction from user’s access while maintaining network integrity.

The result will be happier residents, and happy residents make for higher levels of satisfaction which in turn makes for better occupancy. For the purposes of this discussion, in a wired environment, we use the ‘Best Buy’ test to determine if an environment is frictionless. In the Best Buy test, a resident can buy any connectible wired device from a store, take it back to their apartment, connect it to any jack, and it just works – without them having to take any additional steps because of the network. Similarly in a wireless environment we can apply the Best Buy test in the same way, with one small caveat – in common with almost all wireless networks, a wireless password may be required when first connecting (and only when first connecting).

Common objection to this approach #1: Too many wireless devices connected at once will make the system slow for others. The answer to this is simple: design your network with adequate density, plus some headroom. Your network design should allow for at least ten wireless devices per bed space.

Common objection to this approach #2: We need residents to register devices that do not have browsers (e.g. Game consoles) as we have no way of making them log on. Don’t make anybody log on, then you don’t need this at all.

Common objection to this approach #3: We need residents to log on (authenticate) in case one of them gets a virus, so we can tell where they are to take action. The network management tools used should allow the network operator to determine the physical location (apartment number) of any device on the network, and isolate it if needed, without authentication. All ethernet switches and managed wireless access points can do this; a good network management system can do this automatically.

Common objection to this approach #4: We need to be able to identify rogue (unauthorized) wireless access points to prevent them interfering with legitimate wireless traffic (interference). Almost all enterprise or carrier grade wireless management platforms will identify rogues, and most will take over-the-air automatic remedial action.

Common objection to this approach #5: We want to be able to slow down or turn off someone’s Internet access if they don’t pay their rent. There are other ways of achieving this, but in reality, you may want to reconsider using this as a sanction. In student housing, in general, Internet access is provided as an amenity. Affecting access to the Internet in the case of late payment makes a direct linkage between rent and the Internet service. That could lead to residents claiming they can withhold rent if there is an Internet problem.

Achieving a Frictionless User Experience
Moving to a frictionless model can be a testing experience. Letting go of familiar controls and procedures is always challenging – but the technology and expectations of student housing residents have moved on, and student housing networks have to move on as well.

Take a good look at how your network is designed, and ask these questions:

1. Are there enough wireless access points to allow ten or more wireless devices per bed?

2. Can the network operator locate an individual device in the building, and isolate it?

3. Are your wireless access points part of a managed system, and can that managed system identify rogue wireless access points, and isolate them?
Passing the Best Buy test and going frictionless is a great way of improving resident satisfaction with very little effort, a true ‘quick win’.

A note about new construction: Our recommended best practice is for all new construction to be designed as frictionless right out of the box. Designing for a frictionless user experience should be no more expensive, but will positively affect resident satisfaction immediately.

When might a frictionless design not be appropriate?There are some circumstances when you might need to use authentication, although these are relatively unusual.
The first is if Internet is not provided as an amenity: in that situation you would need to ensure that people using the Internet had paid for it.

The second is in a very dense urban environment where others might learn the password for the wireless SSID and use it from outside the property – however these are rare circumstances.


If you have any questions about the frictionless user experience or the contents of this white paper, please contact us.

Andrew MarshallCampus Technologies Inc(215) 243-7010amarshall@campustech.netOctober 2015

Campus Technologies is a national vertically integrated managed network service provider designing, building and operating highly effective wired and wireless networks exclusively in student housing. See more at

October 21, 2015

Student Housing Internet Delivery Design Best Practice: Wiring Units for Internet Delivery

Using the correct wiring design for purpose built student housing is a crucial part of delivering an outstanding wired and wireless experience to student housing residents, and can be cost effective too.

By Andrew Marshall, Campus Technologies Inc, October 2015

The best practice for wiring a student housing apartment is not necessarily the obvious one, but when all the components of the system are taken into account it will definitely be the most reliable and the most cost effective solution.

Although most residents connect to the property network wirelessly, the wireless connectivity can only be as good as the wired infrastructure that carries the network to each wireless access point. Adopting best practices for wiring will provide a solid foundation for delivering an excellent user experience (UX) for residents.


Figure 1 – the In-unit media panel, or ‘Multifamily’ model

If you’re designing or building a new student housing property, or doing a major renovation, the chances are you may have a design that looks like figure 1 above. This is a traditional MDU design, and it is based on a set of criteria that are important to multifamily. 

March 27, 2015

How to Satisfy Student Resident IT Demand and Stay Ahead of the Game

By Andie Lowenstein, Associate Editor of Multi-Housing News Online


Today’s average student is walking around with anywhere from three to seven devices relying on top-notch, perfect Internet connection. Within the last 10 years, priorities have taken a great shift, as strong dependence on lightning-speed Internet service takes the lead considerably. With multiple residents in one apartment completing online coursework, streaming movies and browsing Facebook around the clock, the demand on Internet supply skyrockets. Without proper IT infrastructure to support the demand, property owners won’t meet resident needs and will be forced to face the music. MHN spoke with Campus Apartments CIO Andrew Marshall to find out how property owners can keep up with student demand and ever-growing technology.
MHN: What are the biggest student demands today in regard to housing?
Marshall: From a student demand point of view there really is only one important thing: the Internet behaves like a utility. It’s just there and it just works. That’s really the number one demand. Really everything else is secondary; there are some pretty good studies that show almost every other property amenity, technology or not, is irrelevant compared to that. Tanning beds and resort pools, people can live without those things they can’t live without connectivity.
MHN: How has this changed over the last five to 10 years?
Marshall: Ten years is a good point. Ten years ago and 2007 are the milestones. If we had this conversation in the early 2000s, we’d have been talking about the importance of Triple Play–everyone in student housing should provide their residents with three things: video programming, Internet connection and telephone. This was before every kid had a cell phone. It was when most video programming was considered regular cable TV. When we started out providing technology to student housing residents in about 2001, we were very focused on the Triple Play.
At the next milestone 2007, when the smartphone started to become popular–there were no iPhones or iPads before 2007–telephony just fell off completely. Nobody right now is putting telephones or even telephone outlets into housing–that’s just not a consideration. And really, what we’re telling everybody is the video side of things is becoming less and less important because most students don’t watch TV that way. With the exception of some local, scheduled or college sports events they might watch on live TV, almost no student resident is watching a show on TV live. The TV aspect is de-emphasized. It still has its place and you still have to deliver it today, but I think probably in five years you won’t need to do it. It still has a specialized place in places like fitness centers and common rooms of apartments, but more likely than not they’re streaming on their device rather than doing it over a traditional cable TV network. That leaves us with Internet and one of the issues is that with telephony and cable TV going away, that puts a much greater emphasis on Internet as a deliverable. The first, second and third priority is stable Internet.
MHN: What new technologies and/or offerings are available for student housing owners?
Marshall: Really, the technology hasn’t actually changed that much. We still bring an Internet connection into a property, we still distribute through the property. What’s changed is the expectation of how that is done. If we had this conversation five years ago, we’d talk about enough bandwidth. That’s still kind of true. Now the focus is what we’re calling “User Experience.” There should be no friction at all between a resident buying and turning on their device and getting connected. They shouldn’t have to register things or log in or put passwords in, it should be a totally seamless experience. They should always have enough bandwidth to do what they need to do without thinking that band-with is a problem and they should always have a situation where if they want to use it on whatever device they want it should just work.
That’s actually really hard to do. We’ve in fact had to develop some proprietary technology to enable that in some cases. The basic building blocks of student housing Internet aren’t like residential Internet; they’re much more like a Fortune 500 company enterprise network. They’re much better industrial grade components, enterprise-grade components, to achieve the reliability and flexibility to reduce that friction. The real trick is not a new technology particularly; it’s in changing the way that we apply it and we’re discovering the rules as we go. We just got to the point this year, 2015, where we’re pretty comfortable with how it is right now but of course we’re still keeping an eye on what’s coming in the next one to three years.
MHN: What do student housing owners mainly look for in their Internet providers?
Marshall: If you [the property owner] don’t do it right, you’re going to pay the price in terms of losing residency etc. The fact of the matter is if your Internet sucks you’re going to lose occupancy. It’s one of those situations where if you do absolutely everything right, nobody’s going to say anything, it’s just going to be expected. If you do it wrong you’re going to have a problem. So from my point of view, I think it’s much more a property ownership/property management driven issue rather than a student housing resident issue.
The problem is there aren’t that many people that can do this. If you take a traditional Internet provider, the default position for student housing is the default senior housing or default hospitality position which is: we’re in real estate, we really don’t understand this stuff, let’s just call Time Warner or the local cable company just let them deal with it. The problem is in student housing, because of the things we’ve been talking about, that doesn’t work any longer. In fact, it hasn’t worked for quite some time. But there’s a lot of properties and a lot of owners still stuck with that situation and don’t know how to change it. Maybe they’re in long-term contracts and they’re finding they pay the price of not having the flexibility.
We’ve been successful with this issue because we own our own Internet provider, Campus Technologies. It’s an independent company for us and we spend our entire time staring at this problem figuring how to fix it, not just for Campus Apartments but other owners too. You need a specialist who understands student residents and the demands of this demographic in order to be successful. Two things I would say to property owners: Don’t take the default cable company position because that’s going to get you into trouble. Number two: Hire someone who actually knows student housing, it’s pretty important to get that right.
MHN: Even with service upgrades, it seems student usage tends to increase faster than their expectations. What can be done to try to level the playing field?
o-IPHONE-PHOTO-GROUP-facebookMarshall: The obvious ones are make sure you have enough bandwidth and a network operator that understands the space and has support staff that understands the students. I think the key to success is in Wi-Fi deployment. Most kids these days aren’t interested in connecting with a wire–it’s all about wireless. Make sure you get the wireless right, which means you’ve got to have an awful lot of access points. We plan on supporting between 10 and 20 devices per resident. Whenever I say that people go “that’s insane that can’t be right” but we average across our networks I think 7-point-something devices per resident today. Ten is not far away. We’re planning for 20 because you want your network to last longer than a year or two. So really, having enough stable Wi-Fi and managing that Wi-Fi is the key to success. One thing you can do is make sure you control your own destiny. You can’t take the position that you’re not in the technology business you don’t want anything to do with it because this is an integral part of what your residents expect just like pools, just like air conditioning, just like water coming out of the tap.
MHN: What does the future look like for student housing and IT? How can student housing owners start to confront these challenges now?
Marshall: The first thing anyone should do is look at the contractor they have in place. Look at the contract you have look at the end date and don’t just let yourself get defaulted into renewing them. Think about what you want to do, talk to residents find out if they have problems. Survey the residents; find out what they’re looking for that you’re not providing. Understand the demographic, because student housing demographics change like any other demographic. If you speak to a student in downtown LA they’re going to have a different expectation than the student in rural Pennsylvania–different demands and different priorities. So, understand your students and what they want. Understand your contract position–what you can and can’t do–and don’t renew by default. Get advice from people you know. I can’t overstate that because people try to deal with this and find out they don’t have the technological knowledge and then default back to cable companies. Where we see most problems, that’s usually what has happened. Cable companies just aren’t geared–they don’t have the ability to resolve these kinds of issues.

What works in multifamily doesn’t work in student housing. The converse is that today’s student housing resident is the multifamily resident of next year or the year after. So, multifamily in general should be eyeing what goes on in student housing and make sure they have a plan to go the same route.

March 25, 2015

PROPERTY OF THE MONTH: UP at Metroplex: ‘New Benchmark for Student Housing’

By  Masha Zager / Broadband Communities
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In this issue, Broadband Communities showcases UP at Metroplex, a student-housing complex in Vestal, N.Y. As part of an overall renovation, Newman Development Group, the property owner, installed state-of-the-art wired and 802.11ac wireless broadband infrastructure that will meet student needs well into the future. Thanks to Jerry Wojenski of Newman Development Group and Andrew Marshall of Campus Technologies for providing the information for this profile.

Back in the early heyday of student housing, the Newman Development Group (NDG) developed a student-housing project in its hometown of Vestal, N.Y. The housing was intended to serve students at Binghamton University, part of the SUNY system. NDG partnered with the property manager, Ambling Management Group, and the owner, Binghamton University Foundation, to build the fourbuilding complex, then called University Plaza.

The property was advanced for its time – it was completed in 2004 and opened in 2005 – and was popular with students. A decade later, however, it no longer looked so advanced. The clubhouse was small, the amenities were unimpressive, the furniture and appliances showed signs of wear and, most important, the broadband was not up to par.

A cable company provided Internet, video and phone services to the property, and there was no propertywide Wi-Fi service. Cable modems hung from the walls of the units. There were continual problems with connectivity and reliability. “Students can live without a lot,” says Jerry Wojenski, executive vice president of NDG Student Living, “but they can’t live without Internet service.”

Students are avid movie watchers and gamers, and they increasingly rely on broadband for coursework. Wojenski explains, “Binghamton tries to get its students to graduate on time, and it maximizes the experience by keeping class time dedicated to lectures and hands-on research. After hours, the students complete their coursework through Blackboard [a learning management system] and do their quizzes online. To take a quiz online, a student needs reliable Internet service.” In addition, students do most of their research online today. “No one goes to the library anymore!” Wojenski says.

Eventually, the foundation decided to exit the housing business, and in August 2014, NDG, which by then had developed many other student housing projects, purchased the property and decided to bring it up to date.

“The first thing on the list to take care of was to completely modernize the connectivity to provide new Wi-Fi and the best service out there,” Wojenski says. NDG turned to Campus Technologies, a leading technology provider to both on- and off-campus collegiate housing, to design, construct, operate and support the new network. NDG had worked with Campus Technologies on a previous student housing project, and Wojenski describes the technology solution there as “innovative.” This time, NDG presented Campus Technologies with a formidable challenge: completely replacing the technology solution over the students’ winter break.

March 09, 2015

Andrew Marshall on Staying Current with Connectivity (Student Housing Business Magazine)

Randall ShearinWhat are student housing owners/operators looking for in an Internet provider?
andrew marshall web
Andrew Marhall, CEO
Campus Technologies
Andrew Marshall: What owners and operators are looking for now doesn’t really relate to bandwidth; it relates to ‘I don’t want the
Internet to be a problem.’ The primary driver for owners and operators is to provide a good amenity that makes them competitive with everyone else, but that does not cause them problems that can affect their NOI directly. There aren’t many owners who get into the trenches on bandwidth and technology. They look to us to do that, generally. Our primary job is to make sure your Internet works. Owners and operators are also concerned with the overall user experience. That usually is decided by the latency in the connection — how fast a response comes back — and the accessibility of the Internet, particularly with WiFi. With students having so many devices connected, the WiFi design of most buildings cannot sustain the number of devices. There are now problems with interference with devices.

January 20, 2015

NEW STANDARD IN STUDENT HOUSING INTERNET ACCESS - Campus Technologies Inc designs and builds a next generation Student Housing wired and wireless network for Newman Development in NY

Campust Technologies Inc
4119 Walnut St., Ste. 100, Philadelphia, PA 19104                                DOWNLOAD PDF
January 20, 2015                   


Katerina Shineleva, Marketing Strategist   |  +1 (888) 288-2587

Campus Technologies Inc designs and builds a next generation Student Housing wired and wireless network for Newman Development in NY

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Campus Technologies Inc, a leading managed network provider and system architect of high capacity resident wired and wireless Internet Access networks in residential student accommodation, today announces the start of its first network build out for 2015, setting a new benchmark for Student Housing networks.
Andrew Marshall, CEO of Campus Technologies Inc, says "In 2015, Student Housing networks are facing many new challenges. Bandwidth is always an issue, but having enough Wi-Fi capacity today and in the future is also a key to success"