The Holistic Approach to Telecommunications

In the debate between cable and fiber optics, property owners err in not seeking complete knowledge.

Richard Holtz served as a volunteer firefighter for more than 20 years. So it’s only natural for the president of Daytona Beach, Fla.-based InfiniSys Inc., a low-voltage technology consulting firm, to use a fire hose analogy when discussing the ability of telecommunication providers to service multifamily communities.

“You can have a large-diameter fire hose and a big fire pump, but if you have 20 large fire trucks all drawing from the water mains, some part of the system will cut out,” he says. “You have to look at the ability of the whole system, and not a selective piece of the system, to deliver the experience.”

Though debate is ongoing about the comparative merits of cable and fiber optics to service apartment communities, the real issue is not about cable versus fiber, but about bandwidth and user experience, Holtz says.

It’s not the first 100 miles, but often the last 50 feet of the connection that is crucial, he points out. “Bandwidth effectively has no limitation,” he says. “But at some point, the fiber ends. It may be at the building level or at the unit level. The real key is the last 50 feet, and the quality of that connection.”

InfiniSys counsels multifamily property owners to think holistically about the issue. Just because fiber is coming to the building or to the units doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be problems.

What if, for instance, the service provider has no capacity left in its electronics? What if, back at its central office, the provider has so many users running on the system that the system is overloaded?

“In the past, AT&T and Verizon gave me an unlimited amount of download for my computer or iPhone,” Holtz says. “But then they realized they didn’t have the capacity to allow all that free use at the same time. I’ve got cases where a cable provider can provide better service over its network of cabling than can a dedicated fiber provider. There are so many people using the active electronics at that dedicated fiber provider’s central headquarters that the company can’t offer the quality of service of the cable provider.”

InfiniSys recommends that property owners follow the standards for cabling properties, Holtz says. If quality cable is used the last 150 feet, it’s possible to achieve the same quality delivered by fiber optics. “That may not be the case 25 years from now, but it is today,” Holtz says.

Where property owners err is in not seeking complete knowledge, he adds.

El Segundo, Calif.-based DIRECTV Vice President of MDU Sales Mike Olson says virtually all multi-dwelling units have cable providers servicing their areas, so it’s simple to have cable providers on their property. If the unit is in the service area of a Telco TV provider, it will also provide service to that property, often using fiber facilities.

“From the renter’s perspective, he has multiple video providers from which to choose. We are a satellite provider, and we also have the ability to provide our service on that property through fiber optic or coaxial cable wiring on the property as well. At the end of the day, residents are less concerned with the technology that delivers the signal, and far more concerned with the variety and quality of the video services offered to them,” he says.

Property owners are coming to the conclusion that they would rather have video choice on their properties, so they don’t lose renters who prefer providers they don’t offer, he adds.

For his part, Eric Cevis, vice president of enhanced communities with Verizon Communications, says the unlimited bandwidth of fiber optics has the capability of handling any of tomorrow’s applications today.

“We have [property owners] understanding over the five-year period in which we’ve taken share away from cable is the importance of future-proofing their communities,” Cevis says. Not only can a community’s residents enjoy voice, high-speed Internet and picture-perfect-quality video, but the community can package with it concierge services, home-monitoring, control and security and wellness management, he says.

“A resident can notify the concierge to bring his car to the front, schedule the exercise room, track packages, track visitors. The community can broadcast service alerts such as the closing of Elevator 3,” Cevis explains.

In July, Verizon will launch home-monitoring and control, allowing residents to turn on lights or dial up the thermostat through their phones before they arrive home, or undertake period checks via a nanny cam.

Property owners, Cevis says, “should look at technology as an amenity of value to residents.”

To comment, e-mail Erika Schnitzer