Femtocell Opinion, comment and reviews

Landlord Femtocells

landlordHotels are often considered to be a potentially attractive market for femtocells. But is there a wider and larger market for owners of rental premises of all sorts. Surely landlords could differentiate their buildings through small investments in femtocells.

Rented property come in all shapes and sizes

Residential property is probably the first type that springs to mind – homes rented to those not ready, able or appropriate to buy their own. With sky-high property prices, a more mobile workforce and credit squeeze, demand for rental properties remains high in many countries. Many factors are involved when choosing a property including location, size, condition, décor as well as price. To avoid void periods and achieve the best rental fees, landlords often refurbish and improve their properties. This can include providing services such as cable/satellite (large screen) TV, free Wi-Fi and other benefits.

Commercial property is more often leased for long periods, with the tenant making their own investment to refurbish and equip the building to their own needs. However multi-tenanted buildings, where smaller or distributed businesses might occupy one or two offices are treated more as a managed service. Again, competition can be fierce and a high standard of services and facilities is expected.

Other categories also exist, such as the short term leased apartments, hotels and holiday parks. Even yacht marinas now offer Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can check on your pride and joy (and remotely control the heating) from the comfort of your own home.

Landlords are also highly varied

The Buy-To-Let phenomenom of the naughties (2000-2010) introduced some 100,000’s of new landlords around the world through low cost, easily accessible mortgage funds. These individuals typically own one or two properties and keep a close eye on them. At the other extreme are the largest of pension funds, who own tower blocks, shopping malls and a range of other developments.

But in most cases, the most successful landlords are those continuously strive to achieve the best profits from their business – investing where appropriate and justified.

Features count

It’s not uncommon for free Wi-Fi access, Satellite/Cable TV and other services to be included as standard – just as other utilities such as power and sometimes even heating can be included in rental fees.

Poor indoor cellular service may be a feature that might swing the balance when selecting between two similar properties. It’s not just for those planning to use the premises as an office – being contactable out of office hours, working from home and personal communication now demand always on/high quality connectivity.

Which femtocell to buy?

Landlords may find it difficult to choose between network operators and will typically have tenants from a variety. Really the only way to be sure is to buy and install a set of femtocells from each of the networks. In the US for example, that might mean one for each of Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. Since these operate at different frequencies, they shouldn’t interfere with each other, although I’d recommend spacing them slightly apart to reduce potential problems. Perhaps there is a market/opportunity for someone to build a multi-network device specifically for this audience.

Larger premises may require several sets of femtocells, alternatively higher power enterprise femtocells may be used instead.

Open or Closed

Many operators allow femtocells to be bought without a subscription, as a one-off purchase. These would need to be registered in the name of the landlord or managing agent rather than the tenant. Most of the femtocell packages today involve a one-off fee with no ongoing recurring charges.

It seems sensible for these femtocells to be configured in open access mode, so that anyone can use them rather than being limited to specific tenants or guests. This latter mode would require management of the multiple white-lists that control access (one per femtocell), imposing the hassle of updating the lists for any changes, making mobile phone numbers known to all parties etc. Since the landlord is providing power and broadband internet connections for the femtocells, it seems much easier simply to allow every visitor to enjoy the benefits of improved call quality and higher data speeds.

Summary

Encouraging landlords to install femtocells as a differentiating feature for their properties seems like an attractive market proposition to me. Larger buildings could make use of enterprise femtocells, while smaller properties and residences could use smaller residential units. A single system which supports multiple networks (and Wi-Fi) could be a popular configuration.

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