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Multi-dwelling Units and Consumer Communications: White-labeling the Service Provider

Multi-dwelling Units and Consumer Communications: White-labeling the Service Provider

The dynamics of consumer communication services are pretty cut and dried: that is, they are easy to parse into convenient buckets. Voice, video, data and wireless, and now home security/home automation all combine to define easily described and marketed service offerings. Yet, that neat model begins to fray around the edges when the delivery channel is not a clean one from operator to customer. And when the delivery channel is through a property owner to tenants or renters, the model falls completely apart.

Multi-dwelling units (MDUs) insert a third party into the communication service transaction whose objectives are often at odds with both the operator and the customer. The property owner seeks to maximize the return on investment in the property, while the end-user customer seeks to minimize costs and increase service options. The operator also wants to maximize profits, but is often put in the position of trying to minimize customer frustration. Then, there are the contracts.

The industry, for obvious reasons, attempts to keep the details of MDU contracts as secret as possible: after all, disclosing the details will give an advantage to competitors as well as to other MDU owners who wish to negotiate the best deal possible. Yet, without generally accepted contractual baselines, every contract between the operator and an MDU owner is a custom one. The result is that MDUs pose a significant challenge to operators.

One might expect that a customer that deals with an MDU as an agent for the local operator, then, would be less satisfied with the service experience than when the customer deals directly with the operator. Yet, this is not the case: generally MDU tenants are happier with their service. Consequently, MDUs seem to be able to offer a better deal than the operators with whom they contract—a perplexing outcome.

This SPIE examines the MDU experience, and suggests there are good reasons why an MDU customer might be more satisfied. It then examines some opportunities for the network operators to emulate this experience for their MDU customers, and even increase their penetration into the MDU market. This SPIE will be of interest to operators and to MDU owners who wish to do business with them.


  • Introduction1
  • Multi-dwelling Units: Increasingly Important
  • MDUs as Customer Concentrators
  • Operator Challenges
  • The MDU as a Connected Home: Implications for Service Management
  • The Last Word

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