Mike Womack: Providing the Wi-Fi Experience College Students Need

by Katie Sloan

In the coming weeks, millions of students across the country will pack up and head off to college, many of them moving into off-campus housing, some to live on their own for the very first time. 

For multi-dwelling unit (MDU) property managers the annual pilgrimage is an opportunity to help students achieve their full potential and academic excellence by providing fast, reliable Wi-Fi. With the widespread digitization of education, connectivity is as essential as electricity and hot water for college students, and the quality and reliability of service can make or break academic success. The broad adoption of remote learning, need for real-time collaboration and access to digital resources, as well as online assessment and testing, has made dependable Wi-Fi an absolute necessity for a modern education. 

Yet, due to limited budgets and inferior technology, off-campus MDUs often provide subpar Wi-Fi infrastructure. Many were built before the proliferation of connected devices and digital transformation, and so they were not initially designed to accommodate the bandwidth needs of today’s students. As a result, 50% of MDU residents report experiencing network issues.

Poor connectivity creates a retention problem for MDU property managers, as many students will simply move elsewhere as soon as possible if they don’t get the connectivity experience they need. 

As demand for managed Wi-Fi grows in the MDU space, off-campus housing providers have an opportunity to not only support student’s academic success, but also improve their own retention and revenue through providing top-quality, reliable and secure Wi-Fi service. 

If your property isn’t up to par just yet, making upgrades in equipment and services over the next year can put you ahead of the competition and keep residents coming back next fall and beyond. Here are seven factors to prioritize as you consider the options.

The roaming learner. Students don’t just use Wi-fi in their apartments; they also depend on it across the property, whether they’re studying in the game room, library or other common area, or listening to a lecture while using the on-site gym. Having seamless, ubiquitous service with systems that automatically hand off devices from one access point to another with zero effort makes connectivity more reliable and learning more portable. 

Sufficient, dynamic bandwidth. Between real-time remote video lectures, online testing and the need for some binge watching and gaming leisure time, students have high expectations for bandwidth volume. While the incoming fiber optic capacity plays a big role in ensuring sufficient bandwidth, equitable provisioning on-property is also important. Using dynamic bandwidth controls, properties can keep some residents from hogging up all the Wi-Fi while others are lurching along. Meanwhile, educating students about how to optimize their Wi-Fi usage—for example, limiting streaming on multiple devices during peak hours whenever possible—can significantly improve connection stability for everyone. 

Simple, self-managed setup. One of the biggest hassles for new residents is setting up utility services. Young people despise having to call virtually anyone on the phone, but navigating phone trees and account setup is the worst for everyone. Student-centric MDU property managers can make setting up Wi-Fi exceptionally fast and easy by creating a QR Code that students scan with their phones to auto-enroll in the Wi-Fi network and set up their account and user credentials. This self-service approach eases the burden for property staff and empowers students to take control over their own utilities.

Security. While many students might not think about it, data security is extremely important, not only to protect things like their banking transactions but also academic integrity. It’s not out of the question for one student to hack into a neighbor’s Wi-Fi to access and plagiarize their work. To ensure integrity and security, implement a Wi-Fi solution that provides every student with their own Virtual Private Network (VPN) to safeguard their traffic and devices. It isn’t complicated to set up and many service providers include it built-in.

Integrated administration. The last thing an MDU property manager needs—and the last thing student residents want—is another account and login to have to manage. Instead, choose a provider that streamlines Wi-Fi account administration by integrating it directly with the student’s resident Wi-Fi portal and rental account. Having this unified account access lowers administrative burden, plus it provides utilization dashboards and reports that can help identify expansion needs or troubleshoot issues.

Fully managed solution. Partnering with internet service providers that offer fully managed Wi-Fi can not only ensure reliable service but also eliminate the burden of management for MDU property managers. A partner that brings the hardware, software, and technical support, so you don’t have to stress about it, is ideal for keeping service levels high, and time and cost burdens low. 

Revenue opportunities. Providing fast, reliable, built-in Wi-fi is an attractive amenity that justifies a rental premium. In fact, three out of four MDU renters are willing to pay more in exchange for having their internet service bundled with their rental agreement. By eliminating the hassle of a separate ISP to deal with or waiting  around for installation and service for residents, a managed Wi-Fi partnership delivers excellent business value that can help offset the cost of infrastructure upgrades.

While MDU property managers might think their role is limited to providing shelter and living amenities for college students, providing reliable Wi-Fi can up-level the resident experience and enhance academic performance. Offering exceptional connectivity as a built-in amenity can differentiate your property from others and help retain residents, and delivering it with the help of a reliable, experienced partner can turn it into a low-burden revenue generator. 

Mike Womack is vice president of partner sales of the Americas with Nomadix

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