Investment leads to success

Arriving at their accommodation with tablets, smartphones and games consoles, students are looking for top Wi-Fi provision

Liberty Living, a student accommodation provider housing 17,000 students in the UK, recently invested over £1m in their Wi-Fi networks. The result? Satisfied students and a National Student Housing Survey award for Best Student Broadband.

Having operated in the student accommodation sector for 10 years and in 17 cities, Liberty Living are well aware of what it takes to meet the demands of today’s student. Central to this demand is access to high capacity Wi-Fi. 

As Liberty’s Head of IT, Grant Robertson, explains: “Student expectations have increased in line with the number of internet-connected devices they own. Arriving at their accommodation with tablets, smartphones, iPods, Kindles, Raspberry Pis and games consoles, students are looking for better Wi-Fi provision than they get at home.”

Students also expect to be able to connect to Wi-Fi anywhere in the building, not just in their own rooms. They demand a connection from reception, to communal spaces, to the kitchen. Partnering with ASK4, Liberty Living moved ahead with considerable work to their infrastructure over a five-month period. The goal was to deliver a fast, reliable Wi-Fi service that enabled students to operate Wi-Fi only (and wired) devices without interruption.

Superb internet provision is a key facet of service expectation for today’s student.’

Speaking of the development, Liberty Living COO John Kenny commented: “Superb internet provision is a key facet of service expectation for today’s student. Moreover, our business is increasingly operationally dependent on IT at every level. We needed a future-proofed infrastructure spanning our complete portfolio.”

ASK4 undertook careful capacity planning and design for each accommodation building, and carried out the installation of nearly 3,000 cable runs and 3,000 access points across 38 sites. This included the use of ‘Best in Class’ Ruckus Access Points. Ruckus Access Points were designed with media and streaming in mind and as such they provide significant advantages over their conventional competitors that were designed for office spaces. Ruckus are widely recognised as having the best real-world Wi-Fi solutions with their access points incorporating BeamFlex+ adaptive antennas – key Ruckus technology.

BeamFlex+ maximises signal coverage, throughput, and network capacity, as well as offering signal polarisation, which in a mobile world is essential for sustaining students’ streaming and online gaming activity, almost regardless of their movements. The placement of each access point was also crucial to the project. While it would seem logical to think the more the better, Wi-Fi access points only have three non-overlapping channels. This makes channel interference a primary cause of customer dissatisfaction. A combination of engineering and technology enabled ASK4 to overcome this issue.

Using highly sophisticated software, ASK4 engineers mapped building layout and composition to engineer out channel interference. Further, Ruckus technology allowed ASK4 to reduce the number of access points required in order to provide the level of service demanded. Reducing the number of access points ensured a lower amount of RF interference from access points in a dense environment. Less interference meant a much higher level of service for Liberty residents.

Winning the award for Best Student Broadband speaks volumes for our work with ASK4.’

Following the National Student Housing Survey* award win in June, John Kenny applauded ASK4: “Winning the award for Best Student Broadband speaks volumes for our work with ASK4. It tells us we are getting our internet strategy and choice of networking partner right. It also gives us confidence for the future, knowing that we can expand operationally and commercially without worrying about any extra demand on the network.”

ASK4 Sales Director Oliver Riddle commented: “We are delighted that Liberty Living were awarded Best Student Broadband for 2015. To win any award of quality with a portfolio the size of Liberty’s is no mean feat, and we are very proud to have played a part.”

Liberty Living also picked up the National Student Housing Survey award for Best Student Learning Environment (Liberty Park Bedford) and gained the International Student Quality Mark recognising over 90% satisfaction from international students. For the past seven years, the National Student Housing Survey award-winner for Best Private Halls Provider and all those shortlisted have done so using ASK4 Broadband. Established in 2000 to provide managed internet services for residential buildings, ASK4 now provide broadband for over 125,000 users. This includes university-owned and private student accommodation in the UK and, more recently, in mainland Europe.

ASK4’s experience in an ever-changing student market gives them a unique insight into the wants and needs of today’s users and future trends. The millennial generation, whose introduction to the internet was likely via a smartphone or tablet, are constant consumers of digital media. With platforms such as iPlayer and Netflix allowing them to choose when, where and how they will consume it, students demand fast, secure, robust Wi-Fi as standard, across a variety of devices.

Whether streaming or working, in their own apartment or in communal spaces, the service ASK4 deliver for Liberty Living enables their students to access the content they want, when they want it. Having worked together for 10 years, a period that has seen significant growth for both Liberty Living and ASK4, this successful partnership is set to continue.

* The National Student Housing Survey (NSHS) is an independent annual survey of students focusing on their experience in both University and Private Sector Accommodation.The 2015 survey attracted almost 20,000 responses from more than 120 universities in the UK.