4Network shortlisted for Innovation of the Year

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ASK4 is delighted to have been shortlisted for Innovation of the Year at this year's Student Accommodation Awards for 4Network.

As an Internet Service Provider specialising in student accommodation, with hundreds of thousands of student customers on our network, we know that they have strongly embedded content and service preferences, as well as clear expectations of how their Internet service ‘should’ work. Our job as their Internet Service Provider is to enable their preferences and deliver on their expectations.

As technology has developed and ‘smart device’ ownership has grown, so too have our students' connectivity requirements and expectations. Our response to this changing landscape has been the development of 4Network.

Launched in the autumn of 2016, 4Network is an industry first and unique to ASK4. It is the result of significant investment and expertise, and is an innovation perfectly attuned to the needs of our student customers.

To understand what 4Network is, and its significance, you first need to understand a little of the developing needs of student users and why a managed Internet service is crucial for student accommodation buildings.

Student Connectivity

Today’s students typically arrive at their accommodation with an average of 5 WiFi connected devices. An increasing number of these devices are designed to connect with and send data between each other over a wireless network. For example, a laptop to a wireless printer, a smartphone to wireless speakers and a Chromecast to a Smart TV. Research tells us that this trend is accelerating, and of 3,000 14-16 year olds surveyed by ASK4 in the UK, Germany and Spain, the majority said they would feel ‘frustrated’, ‘isolated’ or ‘angry’ if they could not access the Internet or connect their devices together as they would expect (see ask4.com/connectedliving). Demand for seamless connectivity between devices is an expectation and not a desire.

A Managed Network

Device-to-device connectivity is something you take for granted in a traditional home environment where you have one wireless router per dwelling. In a multi-tenant environment (hundreds of dwellings in close proximity), installing separate wireless networks in each space is simply not sustainable. As the building reaches capacity and the radio environment becomes congested, each dwelling’s wireless network would become unreliable, weaken and eventually stop working.

This is just one reason why a managed Internet service is crucial for multi-tenant buildings, where a detailed understanding of the fundamentals of radio frequency engineering, and meticulous WiFi planning based on each building’s layout and construction, is required to provide a fast, robust, ‘always on’ wireless service for residents throughout the building.

The Problem

However, a managed wireless network in a multi-tenant building is a shared network, and this creates an existing and increasingly urgent problem. The problem is that wireless networks in multi-tenant buildings have to enforce separation between users’ devices - meaning that devices can connect to the Internet, but not with each other. This is for good reason - it is the only way to ensure neighbouring students cannot see or access each others’ devices via the building’s shared wireless network, thus ensuring students’ security and safeguarding privacy.

The limitation this imposes means that the very devices current and future students increasingly regard as essential (wireless printers, Sonos speakers, Chromecast), and that rely on local wireless connectivity, simply won’t work.

4Network

ASK4’s solution to this problem is 4Network. 4Network provides users of a managed Internet service in multi-tenant buildings with their own private wireless networks. This means students can connect their wireless-enabled devices together in a private and secure way via a building’s shared infrastructure - just like they can at home.

4Network forms a unique part of ASK4’s network infrastructure and has been developed over a number of years in direct response to the changing connectivity demands of current and future students. 4Network is also ASK4’s response to the influx of new WiFi connected devices, entertainment systems and infrastructure now available to students and accommodation operators.

A student’s personal wireless network works wherever they are in the building (it is not restricted to their room or the reach of one ‘router’), and can include any wired or wireless enabled device.

For example:

  • laptops
  • smart phones
  • wireless printers
  • Chromecast
  • Apple TV
  • games consoles
  • Amazon Echo

4Network enables ASK4 to provide the best possible connectivity platform for building operators and students, delivering a superfast, managed, reliable broadband and WiFi service for a whole building, plus private and secure personal wireless networks for individual students.

4Network is exclusive to ASK4 and is ground breaking within our industry. If you have a purpose built student accommodation project, please get in touch, we would love to talk to you about it.

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You can hear more about ASK4's Connected Living research and 4Network at ASK4 hosted panels sessions at The Class Conference (Lisbon, November) and Student Accommodation Conference (Birmingham, December).