The Ginn Co. of Celebration, Fla., a leading developer of resort-based communities, is building a $2 billion, 8,000-unit residential and resort community that will take home technology to a new level.

All the units at Ginn's Reunion Resort & Club of Orlando will include a technology infrastructure that can support an integrated voice, data, video, and high-speed Internet access system.

Reunion is unique because Sprint is the single provider on the project and has agreed to support the community by deploying fiber cabling to the homes and installing a dedicated telecommunications switch right on the community's premises.

Typically, telephone companies run copper cable from the street to the homes and cable TV companies install coaxial cable for TV and high-speed Internet access. At Reunion, all four major services will run over the fiber backbone.

Roughly 6,000 of the units will be individually- or corporate-owned, single- and multifamily condominiums and townhomes, and 2,000 units will be a mix of vacation homes and hotel units managed by the resort. Of the 6,000 owned units, roughly 2,000 will participate in a special rental program in which owners can opt to rent the units out to vacationers. Homes start at $250,000 and run in excess of $1 million. Construction began in late 2002 and will run in three phases over 10 years. The first residents moved into Reunion in May 2003. Plans for some of the later phases also include the development of commercial office space.

Greg Nischke, president of TelSystems Communications, the consultant on the project, says each home will have a network interface device that converts the optical signal from Sprint's network to electrical. It then runs through a structured wiring panel from FutureSmart that supports Category-5E cabling for home networking, telephones, and Internet access and RG6 for cable and video-on-demand services.

Nischke adds that having the telecommunications switch on site makes it easier for Reunion to deliver a broader array of services. For example, all homeowners, renters, and guests will have access to five-digit dialing within the Reunion community. And, once a homeowner opts to put a unit into the rental program, Reunion management can easily switch from a residential to a hospitality mode and deliver features such as automated wake-up calls, front desk services, and real-time billing.

"What I'm seeing is that the people coming to Reunion are very sophisticated customers who are asking for this technology," says Carmen Dominguez, owner of Orlando-based custom builder Homes by Carmen Dominguez, and one of the builders on the project. "We're building houses for corporate people who want to have a retreat for their executives and need the technology to conduct business."

The fiber to the homes can handle the fast data transmission speeds corporate people need to conduct videoconferences, says Hank Charpentier, strategic opportunity manager for Sprint's Business & Wholesale Markets Group, which is overseeing the project for Sprint. Charpentier says data speeds will be offered in three classes of service, starting at 512-kilobits-per-second, jumping to 1.5-megabits-per-second, which is a full T1 line, and then up to a 3-megabits-per-second line. Charpentier says the plan is for the network backbone to evolve over 10 or 15 years to 622-megabits-per-second speeds and finally in the gigabit range.

Nischke says basic phone service will start at $37 per month; cable TV service will start at $39 per month for 80 channels, including four in-house Reunion channels and some international and out-of-market channels; and high-speed Internet access will start at $45 per month.

"The technology at Reunion is pretty innovative," says Keith Carter, director of construction services for Centex Homes in Orlando, another builder on the project. "We're putting in the infrastructure so people don't have to re-wire their homes. The backbone technology has helped us drive our sales."

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.