BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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8 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | MARCH/APRIL 2014 PROVIDER PERSPECTIVE I have become quite fascinated with the growth of student housing over the past several years. During the past decade, the undergraduate student population grew 25 percent nationwide, putting tremendous pressure on campuses to renovate old dorms and housing or begin adding new residential facilities. Adding demand to this mix is a recent trend toward juniors, seniors and graduate students living on or near campus in student housing. Developers have taken notice and have been building a variety of new projects to meet this rising demand. One expert expects double-digit growth in campus development over the next three years to keep up with university enrollment increases. Hundreds of new communities with thousands of new units are being planned and built across college towns all over America. Tis presents private cable operators (PCOs) with a wonderful new segment of the multiple-dwelling-unit (MDU) market to target, specialize in and possibly dominate. Te student-housing market has evolved over the past decade, and many leading property owners now have special business units focused on student housing. Several publicly traded REITs own only college housing, such as American Campus Communities (100,000 beds), Education Realty Trust (25,000 beds) and Campus Crest (17,000 beds). Te growth is occurring not only in such large college towns as Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio, but also in small, Tier-3 markets served by local cable companies. Student-housing developers know that selecting the right pay-TV and broadband provider is critical for their projects. As Multifamily Executive magazine recently reported, "Super-fast Internet connections are now the most important technological amenity developers and managers can provide at student housing properties." According to J Turner Research, which measures and monitors prospect and resident satisfaction, 64 percent of students would consider relocating if Internet speeds were too low. One student housing owner exclaimed that "their usage is doubling every two years." Small towns with local cable companies. Fast growth by developers. High need for broadband services. What a great setup for PCOs! Understanding the student-housing market is truly necessary to be successful in this arena. Tere are specifc needs for communities and for customers. In many cases, local cable companies are not in the best position to provide the solutions. Tey may have inferior products, low Internet speed or insufcient knowledge of the MDU market. Some PCOs already know this. A number of fast-growing operators, such as Pavlov Media, AirWave and Campus Cable, are already taking advantage of this trend. WHAT MAKES STUDENT HOUSING UNIQUE? What makes student-housing customers unique and diferent from the rest of the MDU market? Student-housing developers look at technology decisions as among their most critical. Tey seek as providers specialists that understand the dynamics of delivering digital TV and broadband to a four-bedroom unit with a common-area TV. Tey generally prefer bulk services, and they want infrastructure that can support the growing demands of students. Tey like wireless capabilities as well as authentication tools that improve security and performance. One recent survey of 7,000 students that J Turner conducted found that 86 percent spent more than three hours a day using the Internet. Te same survey showed that students averaged three connected devices apiece (tablets, laptops and so forth). Wow! Tis means the operator in a student-housing community must be prepared to deliver enough bandwidth to each unit to support more than 12 devices used for video streaming, gaming, online classes and more. Student-housing owners also see broadband services as an important amenity. For instance, operators should consider such features as Wi-Fi in common areas, ftness centers and cyber cafés. In Sunbelt markets, they might also consider Wi-Fi at swimming pools. A tremendous opportunity exists for PCOs to capture a fast-growing market that prefers bulk services and generally seeks a product not easily ofered by incumbents. I am quickly becoming a student of this new game and strongly encourage you to crack the books before exam time. By the way, this will be a key topic presented in April at the Broadband Summit in Austin, Texas. v Bryan Rader is CEO of Bandwidth Consulting LLC, which assists providers in the multifamily market. You can reach Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 636-536-0011. Learn more at www.bandwidthconsultingllc.com. Studying the Game Private cable operators shouldn't overlook the student-housing market. The segment is growing rapidly, and PCOs are uniquely positioned to serve it. By Bryan Rader / Bandwidth Consulting LLC BBC_Mar14.indd 8 3/14/14 2:45 PM