That was especially true on the top floors — that is, the prime real estate — where two-bedrooms were priced at $5,500 a month.
For about $400,000, Illuminati installed a passive distributed antenna system, or D.A.S., a network of antennas, cables and signal boosters that amplified the signal from the air, without the costly infrastructure of hard-wiring the building to each of the major service providers.
“Cellphone connectivity is really looked at as a utility,” said Jeffrey Gudewicz, the chief product officer at Wilson Electronics, the company whose devices were installed at Urby.
“It used to be that you’d negotiate, pre-construction, with the cellular providers,” said David Barry, the president of Ironstate, one of the developers. But in the last several years cellular companies have increased the price of installing the wiring that ensures a strong signal in a building, Mr. Barry said, and it would have cost $2 million and taken more than a year to install at Urby. Whereas the Wilson system, he said, is carrier-agnostic and can be installed in weeks, not months. Now the 762-unit building, which opened in 2017, is fully leased.
Others are also recognizing connectivity as an amenity. Related Companies has partnered with Starry, a Boston-based company that provides what is known as 5G fixed wireless internet service, for a flat fee of $50 a month to those who live in residential towers, with no additional rental costs or unwanted bundles.
“Nobody actually knows what 5G is,” said Virginia Lam Abrams, an executive with Starry, because it represents the next generation of low-latency, high-capacity access networks with smoother performance. In Starry’s case, that means 200 megabits a second for downloads and uploads, up to a gigabit a second, with no usage caps, she said, adding that larger companies might charge double that for lower speeds or require a bundled package with cable.
“There are still going to be folks who want their NY1 and their bundled content, but there’s a real desire from the younger generation,” said Joanna Rose, an executive vice president with Related, who said the service will be rolled out to all of the developer’s New York buildings, with a reduced-cost subscription in the affordable projects.