Get Living London makes itself at home with Airangel’s Wi-Fi

Get Living is a pioneer in the UK’s emerging Build-to-Rent (BTR) sector, renting homes to more than 3,000 people at two London locations, with new neighbourhoods planned across the UK.

Get Living’s first 1,500 rental homes were in East Village, the London 2012 Athletes’ Village. From there, Get Living announced its second location at Elephant Central in Elephant and Castle; launching 400 homes for rent in August 2017. Site acquisitions in Glasgow and Leeds were also announced in 2017.

The challenge

Location, style, convenience and inclusive facilities are all influencing factors for the next generation looking to rent rather than buy. High on the list of services expected by tenants is access to broadband and Wi-Fi, enabling day-one connectivity with no extra contracts to set up. This ‘fourth utility’ is essential for the use of technologies such as smart phones to smart TVs and numerous other ‘connected home’ devices, like wireless speakers and Wi-Fi enabled thermostats; all of which are now deeply embedded in the modern lifestyle.

While many build-to-rent developers recognise the need for a managed Internet service from a specialist provider to ensure the smooth running of key building infrastructure, some still believe tenants’ broadband and Wi-Fi provision should be their own responsibility. However, while allowing tenants to bring in their own high-street service may seem like the easier option, it is not a sustainable solution.

The difficulty is that the range of radio frequencies (RF) reserved for Wi-Fi is limited. In the UK, there are only three non-overlapping channels on the popular 2.4 GHz band. If two wireless routers are too close together on the same channel they create interference disrupting other Wi-Fi enabled devices. Radio interference can also come from common home appliances such as cordless phones, microwaves, security systems or poor electrical wiring.

This means that as buildings reach tenancy capacity, radio environments become congested and tenants’ Wi-Fi connections become unreliable, weaken and eventually stop working. This is a problem for the tenant and the building operator, as the resident’s experience and satisfaction levels are compromised, often when the typical home solution from the big providers is installed in an ad hoc manner.

The infrastructure solution

The answer from Airangel is a proven approach that has been delivered and serviced for over a decade. Airangel’s hotel clients, who rightly insist on controlling their RF space, have in effect been using a building-wide managed service for many years. This can be one of the hardest physical environments to deliver robust Wi-Fi connectivity into, consisting of several hundred individual dwellings in close proximity, housing users with multiple devices used simultaneously at peak times. Modern construction materials such as those used at Elephant Central also posed an issue for the distribution of Wi-Fi signal and the avoidance of co-channel interference.

As a specialist Wi-Fi provider, Airangel was able to overcome these obstacles as it understands the fundamentals of radio frequency (RF) engineering. It is never as simple as just switching on a few wireless routers. Centralised, error-free control of Wi-Fi access points in combination with careful placement and tuning of power settings leaves the controller to manage channel selection, plus band steering for both 2.4 & 5 GHz frequencies on an ongoing basis.

At Elephant Central, Airangel installed the latest Wi-Fi technology from Ruckus Wireless consisting of one or more dual band 802.11AC Wave II H510 wall-plate style access points with built in gigabit 4-port switch per apartment. Pre and post-installation heat mapping ensured coverage met the latest industry standards meaning at least -65dbm signal to all corners of each apartment have been met. The four-port switch was used to enable flood wiring in each dwelling, ensuring wired connectivity for static devices like Apple TVs and printers, saving the RF environment for the smaller mobile devices that depend solely on Wi-Fi.

Security & mass privacy solved

The greater challenge for multi-tenant buildings is a provision of a true ‘home Wi-Fi experience’, rather than the isolated connectivity, per device, that other public access venues must deliver for security reasons from centrally controlled infrastructure.

The local area network (LAN) was originally conceived to connect trusted devices together which is what all privately-owned homes have. The answer to this for the BTR sector has been developed by Airangel and has come to be known as Private Area Network (PAN). The MyAirangel web-based management platform allows reception and estate staff to generate a unique Wi-Fi key at check-in, ensuring the configuration is automatically set and ready for the new arrival. With all the apartments defined and preset on the system, this takes seconds to complete and details of how to log in to the Wi-Fi are communicated to the new tenant automatically. The result is interconnected devices in each apartment, securely transmitting using WPA2/AES encryption standards and neighboring PANs are isolated and secured from one another.

Bandwidth for the insatiable

Post move-in, new residents are given the ability to self-provision with a choice of bandwidth upgrade packages. Residents are prompted to log in to a Get Living branded self-service portal. Faster packages beyond the default free offer, are then chargeable via the most common payment processors with recurring monthly revenues collected by Get Living. Tenants can review and administer their account and change network passphrases. As an extra feature, this bespoke venue portal serves as a communication hub or billboard between Get Living and its tenants thereby promoting latest offers from a single window.

It is widely accepted that demand for more bandwidth everywhere across the UK will continue to increase as recent history shows. The BTR sector is already using ‘gigabit’ in its every day vocabulary which sets rising expectations among tenants trying to choose between one potential venue or another.

With so much reliance on around the clock internet access from 400 homes, in addition to a student accommodation building of 300 units, peak population and concurrency at Elephant Central could ultimately reach 1,000 connected devices at peak times. This means plenty of bandwidth over resilient connectivity was a key item on the scope of delivery.

Airangel provided 2 x 2 gig connections over 2 x 10 gig bearers, where over time and with continued monitoring in place, the connections could be opened up. Each connection comes from a different geographically diverse point-of-presence (POP) providing comfort that if one line was to go down, the site will still have full connectivity from the second line.

The Wi-Fi infrastructure is in line with delivering gigabit Wi-Fi over 802.11AC Wave II, especially through the wired sockets in place. The revenue generated from tenant Wi-Fi upgrades would help fund any 10Gig switching upgrade if required.

Public access with continued engagement

Get Living’s new buildings are part of the ongoing regeneration of Elephant and Castle’s town centre. Elephant Central comprises more than just new homes and includes a private garden terrace, supermarket, gym, crèche, bicycle storage, restaurants and shops, as well as a new public square that forms the gateway to Elephant Park.

Public access Wi-Fi, both indoors and out helps users at all levels, residents or visitors, enjoy life more by staying connected and being entertained for free. Airangel used the same core infrastructure to deploy Wi-Fi to all remaining public areas. Retail tenants with external seating benefit through attracting and retaining customers, while residents can stay online, be it in the garden or in the basement areas when disconnected from 4G.

Entwined within this offer, Airangel installed a user engagement facility that goes further than a branded captive portal page. Content, in the form of menus or banners, can be inserted in the user’s browser into HTTP pages at select times of day. At key times of the day Get Living can promote new services or communicate updates to residents and guests.

Christian Armstrong, Chief Operating Officer, Get Living said: “Wi-Fi is just as important to our residents as any of the other utilities, so working with a managed service provider that could offer the level of service that’s needed to support the ‘connected home’ lifestyle was essential for us. The connectivity and specialist expertise offered by Airangel allows our residents to access Wi-Fi wherever they are at Elephant Central for work, rest or play.”

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