Breaking the ICE with WiFi

Cord cutting. The term is often attributed to subscribers cancelling their TV service. Often, it is replaced with a comparable over-the-top (OTT) service, or a combination of various services such as Netflix and MLB.TV to cover specific demands. The obvious effect to this is that an increasing number of services now rely on the data pipe, and bandwidth consumption across all networks is growing with no signs of stopping. But the TV cable is not the only cord being cut. Almost all devices today ship with WiFi connectivity — and many new devices no longer accept an Ethernet cable.

The concept of WiFi seems pretty easy to grasp. Find the network among the long list of SSIDs, then enter your password and off you go. For your average subscriber, this is all they need to know about WiFi. An SSID and password pairing. But as our presentations at this year’s Incognito Community Exchange (ICE) continue to roll, one thing is increasingly clear — subscribers also expect WiFi to just work, even in extreme conditions. Signal strength across the customer premises is becoming a frequent pain point for customer support.

Conversations with various attendees at ICE reveal scenarios that sound easy to correct and fix — maybe for you and me — but less tech-savvy subscribers may not fully understand how WiFi works. Stories include locking the access point in a cabinet or leaving it on one edge of your property. One thing is clear, subscribers will go to their providers for troubleshooting and support. After all, many gateways are shipped with WiFi capabilities.

However, to provide support means operators must go past the last mile into the customer premises. Truck rolls are expensive for what typically should be a very simple fix. Remote WiFi management is becoming increasingly crucial in the network. Visibility into the home network, diagnostics, and control capability will go very far to reducing OPEX — and perhaps also open up new avenues for monetization. Proactive monitoring of subscriber networks and the performance of their WiFi could be a value-added service or a market differentiator.

A little customer education could also go a long way. Best practices in setting up a WiFi network or self-diagnostic tools can help empower subscribers to improve their home networks. Concepts of range and signal strength aren’t exactly rocket science. Do the customer service representatives (CSRs) know how to effectively explain these concepts when assisting subscribers? Collectively with WiFi management, service providers could decrease support pressures while also improving their subscribers’ quality of experience (QoE).

WiFi is already a widely adopted connectivity standard, it is simple on the surface but can get increasingly complex — especially for non-techy subscribers. As these subscribers continue to rely on the their providers for technical assistance, there is opportunity for service providers to become an authority in the home network by helping their subscribers break the ice.