Broadband services to shared buildings: why a converged network approach makes sense

When it comes to delivering broadband services to shared buildings, often referred to as multi-dwelling units, converged services are vital to support a vast array of telecommunications networks and to offer an outstanding resident experience.

It’s no surprise that tenants expect high-speed, robust and reliable internet access and phone lines. But a long list of behind-the-scenes services also depend on communications networks, from door entry systems to security alarms, fire safety systems to building management systems (BMSs).

And this introduces a severe risk for Build to Rent (BTR) operators tasked with providing broadband services to shared buildings – that, during the build stage, they waste unnecessary time and money on duplicating the networks underpinning these services.

Broadband services to shared buildings – the importance of pre-planning

It is not untypical for the main build contractor to wait until much of the foundational work has been done before going out to a mechanical and electrical (M&E) contractor, who then subcontracts again to a cabling specialist for installation of the infrastructure required by, say, the CCTV system. Even if the networking process is introduced earlier in the build, an M&E contractor will still need to employ different specialists for each of the network-reliant systems outlined above. And each of those specialists will, quite rightly, design and pitch a system which involves a full network with their own specialist function running off it.

The upshot? A whole lot of unnecessary and costly duplication.

This is why forward-thinking BTR operators should look to work with IT networking specialists from the outset when providing broadband services to shared buildings, in order to develop a converged network for the entire building or even estate. A converged network is a single physical (usually fibre and copper) network which is divided up into virtual sub-networks, or VLANs. Each VLAN is used to underpin a different core service, from back office functions to resident-facing WiFi.

The benefits of well planned converged services for build to rent are enormous. Aside from the substantial resource savings from avoiding duplication, a converged network is also far more future-proofed than multiple discrete networks. It provides a foundation for smart building tools and technologies, and enables the creation of genuinely seamless and innovative resident experiences, whereby Personal Area Networks travel with tenants throughout buildings and even across the entire estate.

However, all these benefits depend on choosing the right converged services provider. How do you do that?

Begin with your brand

The best converged services providers will want to start early in BTR project – right back at the conception stage. They will want to work with your brand time as well as your operational team, to really understand what kind of experience you are hoping to present to your tenants. Network-dependent technology such as superfast internet, building-specific apps and the Personal Area Networks outlined above can have a massive impact on resident experience and the overall impression of your organisation.

Smart building specialism

Smart buildings, which use IoT technology to proactive manage everything from energy efficiency measures to predictive maintenance of assets, are key to helping BTR operators run as efficiently as possible. They can also play a crucial role in building an environmentally-friendly and forward-thinking brand. As such, your converged services provider should have experience in supporting and developing smart buildings, and able to advise you on possible future developments.

Long-term partnerships

The life of a BTR property should be long-term, and so the partnership with your converged services provider should be too. Innovations in networking technology are happening at lightning pace and while the possibilities for smart buildings and innovative tenant experiences are only going to become more diverse, this will also have an impact of the provision of broadband services to shared buildings. A truly long-term and forward-thinking converged services partnership will enable you to capitalise on these developments as they emerge, and truly by a BTR operator for the future.