Managed Home Wi-Fi, One Approach Does Not Fit All

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Fixed operators did a great job in the past decade to deliver ever increasing speeds to the home and communicate to their customers that speeds do matter to enable the many devices and  of applications customers like to use in the home. But the home experience is now defined by Wi-Fi inside the home and fixed operators need to ensure that experience is at par with the broadband connectivity they bring to the home.

With more connected devices and more bandwidth available to the home, subscribers demand a high quality broadband experience and Wi-Fi is the fabric supporting that experience. Wi-Fi may be the most problematic of all links to the customer, and problems with Wi-Fi may typically be seen by the customer as failure of the broadband service to deliver its overall promise.

Calix, one of the companies profiled in this report, defines managed home Wi-Fi as the combination of operator-controlled router and the ability to manage the network remotely. With 40-50% of the support calls related to Wi-Fi issues, service providers can no longer refuse ownership of the connected experience inside the home. Users are testing speeds and will make their service providers accountable no matter the origin of the issue.

Wi-Fi performance, and thus the user experience can often suffer due to many environmental factors, such as congestion, noise, and interference and the user is typically not able to differentiate between these problems caused by Wi-Fi, and other problems in the access network, or in the underlying applications. Today operators lack effective tools to efficiently assess subscriber Wi-Fi QoE, and diagnose and resolve Wi-Fi related issues or to differentiate Wi-Fi related degradations from other causes of poor customer experience. At the same time, subscribers cannot easily resolve Wi-Fi issues without having to call their service provider. This inability to diagnose and address Wi-Fi problems translates into high operating costs for the service provider caused by ineffective or lengthy support calls, expensive “truck rolls” for on-site service, and replacement of CPE. Because of the lack of effective tools, operator’s attempts to resolve issues are often ineffective resulting in return calls and visits, and high levels of customer dissatisfaction.

For many operators including Liberty  with whom we spoke to for the preparation of our upcoming report “From Managed Home Wi-Fi to Enabling the Secure Smart Home 2018-2023” there are 2 objectives with managed home Wi-Fi:

  • Ensure the Wi-Fi experience is enjoyed fully around the home with proper coverage;
  • Ensure the performance can match the speed delivered to the home with radio resource management and orchestration activities required which include: band steering between 2.4 and 5GHz, airtime fairness between devices, client steering or coordination between access points to name a few.

Liberty has invested in technology supplier Plume and has rolled out its agent on its existing gateway installed base.

Several operators believe that a majority of homes will be well covered with one single gateway especially if it has more than 4X4 radios and this will be ideal to maintain lower costs but in the 30% or so cases, there will be a need for a second, third or fourth access point in the home.

Others however indicated that most homes would need at least a second AP which will be backhauled wirelessly as MoCA, Ethernet are not always available. PLC is perceived as limited to 200Mbps despite recent innovations to reach gigabit speeds and not a suitable backhaul solution in MDU environments or in regions outside Europe.

Assia, one of the companies profiled in the report, believes the multi access point and mesh network approach to resolving the coverage and performance problem is flawed until there is virtualized intelligence in the access point that empowers the service to have visibility in the home network and take both reactive and proactive measures. Assia says it is carrier and access technology agnostic.

Softathome says it combines all the approaches to solving the capacity and coverage problem in  the home including the use of higher 8X8 MIMO from the likes of Quantenna combined with Broadcom’s 4X4. The tri-band approach (dual band + dedicated wireless backhaul)is said to be less common in Europe because it is more expensive as the additional 3rd radio means a dedicated chipset for the silicon, bigger hardware, more antennas and more power usage which could translate into an extra 20-50 euros per repeater. Therefore the dual-band approach is more popular in Europe.

If you are interested in learning more about the upcoming report “From Managed Home Wi-Fi to Enabling the Secure Smart Home 2018-2023” please contact us at info @ maravedis-bwa.com

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Mr. Fellah, is a Senior Analyst and founder of Maravedis with 20-year experience in the wireless industry. He authored various landmark reports on Wi-Fi, LTE, 4G and technology trends in various industries including retail, restaurant and hospitality. He is regularly asked to speak at leading wireless and marketing events and to contribute to various influential portals and magazines such as RCR Wireless, 4G 360, Rethink Wireless, The Mobile Network, Telecom Reseller to name a few. He is a Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) and Certified Wireless Technology Specialist (CWTS).

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