Comcast equips Connecticut's College & Crown development with fiber-based services, drives broadband as amenity

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is finding that a number of communities are embracing its Advanced Communities Network program and New Haven, Conn.'s College & Crown development is no different.

The focus of XFINITY Communities' Advanced Communities Network is to work with property owners to install its suite of data and video services in a host of housing environments, including apartment/condo complexes, communities with single-family homes, healthcare facilities and student housing units.

What makes the College & Crown development a compelling target for Comcast is that it is located in an area where New Haven's primary business district and retail corridor meets with Yale University. It includes a mix of 160 apartments ranging from studios to two-bedroom units and also includes 20,000 square feet of retail space and structured parking.

"To be able to work with the developer of the property who was a great partner and be excited to be able to bring product support and entertainment to their future tenants, it has been a great project," said Michael Parker, vice president of Comcast's Western New England Region, in an interview with FierceInstaller. "It has been a huge success for the company."  

As a fiber-based network infrastructure, XFINITY's Advanced Communities Network can be customized to meet the unique needs of a property owner.

Given the diversity of the properties Comcast serves, it will determine which facilities are the best fit for either fiber or its traditional HFC network infrastructure. The MSO takes into consideration the individual needs and size when evaluates what wire to install at each property.

"For the Western New England region, every property is evaluated based on need and on size. So each one could have a different solution," Parker said. "We will have some Advanced Community Networks that will be fiber-to-the-building, and we may have others that aren't a fiber-based solution. But the plan going forward is the more fiber the better."

One of the features of this network is that it allows for the deployment of "move-in-ready" gigabit-capable solutions that can support 1 Gbps speeds when DOCSIS 3.1 technology is available. Comcast said all of its XFINITY Communities solutions provide a path for owners to offer their residents the capability for gigabit speeds.

Installing fiber into new Greenfield like College & Crown makes sense as it enables Comcast to create a higher speed platform that can handle a myriad of traffic types, but Parker admitted that new developments in Western New England are becoming harder to come by.

However, if it's able to get the right access agreements, Comcast maintains committed to bringing fiber as deep as possible as it comes across new Greenfield properties.

"For large enough Greenfield, installing fiber is our desire in Western New England, but the problem is there's not a whole lot of Greenfield developments like College & Crown," Parker said. "We have a team that's out there negotiating when we do come across projects like that, whether it's going to be in Hartford or New Haven or Springfield, Mass., but that does not mean we would not do the same in a Brownfield environment."

At the same time, it is also pursuing a number of Brownfield or existing properties. A potential Brownfield FTTB prospect for Comcast's Advanced Community Networks could be in other areas like Hartford, Conn., where a number of property owners are rehabilitating a number of older apartment complexes.

Similar to Greenfield properties, Comcast will begin a conversation with the property owner about what their needs are and what kind of tenants they want to serve.

"What it comes down to is the negotiation with the landlord to make sure we're meeting their target demographics. So for a place like New Haven where you are near Yale University, we had to go fiber-to-the-unit to ... keep up with the way technology moves," Parker said. "Other owners might not need the same robust solution."  

Parker acknowledged that installing fiber into existing properties can create various issues. While installing fiber as a building gets built is a relatively easy proposition for service providers, going into an existing building creates a number of unforeseen challenges, such as gaining access to risers and finding common space to locate equipment.   

"It all comes down to timing and the issue becomes when we are contacted," Parker said. "If we're contacted when the walls are opened if we're doing Brownfield, then all of our options are preserved if it makes financial sense. But if someone calls us after they complete a property, it creates an additional layer of complexity on how to address a particular building."

Regardless of whether it's a Greenfield or Brownfield property, Parker said that having a fiber-based connection could make any property more attractive, particularly to renters who have a large array of units to choose from.

By allowing Comcast to install its facilities in their communities, property owners can provide customized XFINITY services like XFINITY TV, Internet, X1, XFINITY Wi-Fi as an amenity to their residents.

"If I was a landlord I would want the best in class and I would want the same network. It would be a nice competitive advantage," Parker said. "I think having the halo of having the Xfinity Advanced Community Network property should help with marketing."

For more:
- see the release

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AT&T: Building owners' recognition of fiber services bodes well for installers, service providers
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