Register for the Energy Summit and Learn Where Multifamily Telecom is Headed


Multifamily telecom has become a complicated headache for many property managers.

It’s easy to get confused by the tangled web of telephone operators, cable/satellite companies and internet service providers that are constantly changing their offering in vying for critical consumer dollars.

More and more communications providers are shifting to wireless, targeting mobile devices and cloud-based technology with intense focus on the residential market. Ma Bell, supported by telephone lines that stretch from sea to shining sea, has taken a backseat. Wireless digital signals breeze past older infrastructure to deliver not just voice, but video, text and other communications through multiple devices.

For apartment operators, providing reliable access to the internet is no longer an amenity – it’s a necessity, as important to today’s renter as the kitchen sink and reliable heating and cooling. Leasing agreements are sometimes lost in parking lots when prospects can’t get a good cellular signal.

In fact, reliable cell reception has become the most necessary community amenity, according to the 2020 NMHC/Kingsley Apartment Resident Preference Report.   

And you can’t talk about cellular connectivity or WiFi without talking about telecom, says Tim Haddon, Director of Strategic Business Services at PK Management.

Telecommunication companies are slowly eliminating copper cables that have supplied phone and internet services for years. They are too expensive to manage compared to digital signals, which can move information faster.

“There has been an increased focus for us on the telecom expense side just to get to the latest technology,” Haddon says.

The industry’s movement from copper to digital connections presents a number of challenges for apartment operations. Fire, alarm and other access panels that currently run on copper will ultimately have to be transitioned to running over the internet.

“At some point, the phone companies are not going to support the copper phone network,” Haddon says. “They want it all on fiber and the fastest connection possible, and that means the legacy network will ultimately go away.”

Managing the complexities of multifamily telecom

Haddon is responsible for managing telecom in Cleveland-based PK Management’s portfolio of affordable and conventional properties across the U.S. An advocate of utility management and conservation, Haddon will host a panel of multifamily telecom professionals who will discuss how to effectively manage expenses, as well as generate ancillary revenue, at the virtual RealPage 2021 Energy Summit Feb. 24-25.

Telecommunications – like water, electric and gas – is a core part of apartment operations, but unlike the others is an area where a lot of wires can get crossed. And while necessary, it’s expensive. On the other hand, telecom can be a source of revenue through cable marketing agreements.

The expense side of telecom can be the trickiest because WiFi is thought to be invisible and connectivity easy. This perception can get an apartment community into trouble when an operator unfamiliar with the property’s network starts moving things around.

“There is a wire somewhere,” Haddon says. “It’s just the last part that connects to user’s device that is wireless. In this last little piece lies in all of the confusion.”

Haddon recommends working closely with companies that understand telecom and how a network is stitched together. A good managed information technology service provider can help properties address the complexities of telecom.

Understanding the revenue side

While it shows up on expense ledgers, telecom can actually be a source of revenue for properties that negotiate revenue share agreements with service providers.

Bulk service agreements provide each apartment with internet and/or video, which can be charged to residents to generate ancillary revenue. Some agreements for market rate properties allow charging residents beyond the basic cost.

But these situations can get tricky and require knowledge of the landmines – another topic for the Energy Summit panel.

“In telecom, you have to know which highway you’re on,” Haddon says. “Are you on the expense management side or the ancillary revenue side? When talking about telecom, you can talk about the whole umbrella, or you can talk about either one.” Tune into the Summit to deepen your understanding of today’s complex telecom landscape.

To attend the RealPage Energy Summit 2021, register here.


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