Developers compete to remain well connected to their buyers

With the growth of broadband internet in the home, developers of luxury villas and apartments in the Middle East are starting to realise that there is a need to provide high quality data transfer mechanisms as part of the property. Construction Week explores a fast-evolving industry on the verge of 10-gigabyte technology and a wireless revolution.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  September 24, 2005

Developers compete to remain well connected to their buyers|~|Getty-Images-200.gif|~||~|The information age has been upon us for almost 10 years, and by now most contractors will be fully aware of the high-tech cabling requirements for modern office buildings. But this is not yet the case when it comes developing apartment buildings and villas, where many contractors are only just beginning to realise that the demand for data transfer in the home is now almost as important as it is in the office. “The need for data transfer is increasing in the home-based environment as more digital files are used in the home, like MP3 music files and digital photos,” says Hishamul Hasheel, technical sales manager, U.S. Robotics. Every five to 10 years the de facto technology used by the cables changes, but the mindset is already there, as contractors and developers are now used to working with network consultants. Recognising these data requirements, developers have begun to build smart homes that provide the necessary network infrastructure. The main driving force behind smart homes is that residents can reduce their data traffic costs. Each month a typical home spends US $68 on the Internet, between $54 and $272 on telephone usage, and another $54 on television coverage. “These are known as the triple play services: voice, video and internet. The proposition of having a smart home and lowering these costs is obviously attractive, and this is what the consumer hopes will happen in the future,” says Craig Tindle, Oman country manager, Systimax Solutions. By offering long-term financial savings, the developer creates another unique selling point for a property that will ultimately command a premium. It does require a degree of investment by the developer though. “The amount of cables involved does increase, as does the sophistication of the technology,” says Tindle. Residential property developers have traditionally used much lower grades of cable that are only suitable for voice services. But, according to Tindle, many are now interested in higher grade cabling. “They may not purchase and install, but they do go through the debate, and as technology increases and more telecom operators enter the arena, more residential projects will install a higher grade cabling,” he says. The hot debate within the cabling industry at the moment is the implementation of 10G (10-gigabyte per second) cable. The current de facto standard for cabling is 1G, but within the next five to 10 years, this is expected to progress and the use of 10G cabling will become standard in the next few years. While this may not appear to be of immediate concern, buildings that are still in the design or construction stages may end up using cabling that is out of date before they are completed. Some developers and contractors have already anticipated this change and have begun to install 10G cabling. “Obviously buildings have a long lifetime and tend to focus on 20 years rather than five to seven years, so we have had a good uptake of 10G cabling in the Gulf already,” says Tindle. Not all contractors are as forward thinking though as many allocate budgets that are often inadequate, even though the cabling costs typically account for less than 1% of a project’s total construction costs. One of the reasons for this is that many were originally electrical contractors and don’t fully understand why offices and homes would want a high level of technology. Another popular alternative to cabling for (SMEs), home-based networks and existing buildings, is to go wireless. Wireless systems require no cabling, and only require cables to connect two different buildings or two different offices. “Most of the new buildings have been using the traditional method of distributing bandwidth using fibre cables and charging the end-user for all the work involved. But you can achieve the same using a wireless network, which means wireless is definitely going to be the cost-effective order of the day,” says Hasheel. With a traditional wired network, data is distributed across a local network from a modem. This requires installing fibre cables and creating a central distribution point with a switch to distribute the bandwidth. In most cases fibre cables that provide large volumes of bandwidth are not necessary for most household applications. “Wireless is a possible alternative for Internet connections, but if you look at voice and video connections there is still some concern as far as the performance is concerned,” says Tindle. But for light bandwidth applications like basic Internet usage, a wireless connection is more than sufficient. “The average home user who just wants to use the Internet to share data files, or work from home, then wireless is definitely the answer,” says Hasheel. Although wireless networks offers a variety of clear benefits, there are two main reasons why they are often overlooked. The first is the notion that a wireless network is not easy to deploy, and the second is that many perceive a wireless network is less secure than a wired alternative. “There has been a perception that installing a wireless network is a very complex and difficult process to manage, but that is not the case. Configuring a wireless access point or a wireless broadband server is as simple as using a gaming adapter or gaming box, so the belief that it is difficult to install is really down to a lack of understanding,” says Hasheel. As far as security is concerned, the standards of wireless networks have greatly improved over recent years, and in many cases offer a level of security that is comparable or better than a wired network. Contractors are also beginning to wake up to the advantages of a wireless network, as they avoid the need to install cabling. “We have dealt with a lot of building contractors that have identified wireless networks as a cost effective option, and many have begun to yield the results,” says Hasheel.||**||

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