In an ideal world, Wi-Fi flows smoothly, like running water, and without the end-users even noticing. Nevertheless, there is a new trend with expensive cloud solutions that include end-user apps under the label of in-home Wi-Fi optimization. The result? Increased complexity and increased costs for ISPs that could easily have been avoided.
In an always-online culture, with heavy streaming activity and permanently connected devices everywhere in our homes, we are deeply dependent on the services from our ISPs. End-users need high-performing and stable in-home internet performance like never before: this is nothing new.
However, this need for stable and high-performing internet has provoked a new tendency in the FTTH industry: expensive Wi-Fi management solutions based on cloud technology and aiming to constantly optimize in-home performance. Sounds attractive? The answer is probably yes, but you should be careful, argues Jens Bundgaard, Technical Program Manager at Icotera.
“Most people don’t care whether you have optimized their solution by either 8 or 16 percent. What they do care about is that their internet is stable and delivers at high speed. While receiving daily app notifications may at first seem attractive to some end-users, I believe most people would rather be without it, provided they get a high-quality service all the time." Jens Bundgaard, TPM, Icotera
– These Wi-Fi management solutions flaunt themselves by being able to optimize in-home Wi-Fi performance overnight by relying on cloud data. But the truth is that intelligent routers deliver more powerful Wi-Fi chipsets, which allow the routers to make intelligent decisions and optimize performance decentralized on the router itself. Why send data to the cloud and back to the router to optimize performance, if your router can do the job itself?
Smooth Wi-Fi without noticing
Besides transmitting data between the cloud and the router, many new Wi-Fi management solutions also include end-user applications. This often entails sending notifications to end-users to inform them that their Wi-Fi performance has been optimized, for example by 8, 10 or 16 percent overnight. While at first this might seem like a positive additional service, Jens Bundgaard warns that it is a slippery slope.
–Fast and stable internet is to most people a necessity, just like water running from the tap: we expect it to work, and we expect the water pressure to be high. Wi-Fi service should ideally be delivered like any other utility service, he says and continues:
– Let’s be honest: Most people don’t care whether you have optimized by either 8 or 16 percent. What they do care about is that their internet is stable and delivers at high speed. While receiving daily app notifications may at first seem attractive to some end-users, I believe most people would rather be without it, provided they get a high-quality service all the time.
According to the Technical Program Manager, the problem is that the app only delivers notifications about optimizations. But this is usually only part of the story. In most homes, there will be some degree of fluctuation in Wi-Fi performance, depending on how many users are online, the time of the day, what activities they are doing and so on.
– You don’t need to be a mathematician to see that performance cannot be optimized by certain percentages every day. At some point, the development must have gone the other way, but were the end-users notified of this deterioration? Probably not, and there’s a problem if service information is only delivered when convenient for the supplier, Bundgaard says.
Let the router do the job itself
In his view, it is the job of intelligent Wi-Fi solutions to constantly optimize performance, without the end-users even noticing. Like what intelligent routers do. For example, band steering technology intelligently decides when to shift a device from the high-capacity 5 GHz band to the 2.4 GHz band that may hold less capacity but has a better reach and is therefore still favored when reach is high. Or Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) technology where multiple antennas are used to transmit and receive so that you provide your customer with the promised throughput. Or intelligent roaming between access points in the household to automatically connect people to the best available Wi-Fi signal as they move through their home.
These intelligent router technologies, amongst others, make expensive cloud monitoring solutions redundant.
Therefore, Jens Bundgaard’s message is clear:
– If you invest in a high-end CPE with intelligent and powerful algorithms, Wi-Fi management is conducted in the router itself, thanks to its intelligence. Combined with a Wi-Fi support tool like e.g. Icotera’s ICONS that allows your supporters to perform efficient , proactive customer support, you have everything you need to deliver outstanding customer experiences. You don’t need to invest in expensive cloud monitoring or customer apps.
The cloud holds great potential
Jens Bundgaard stresses, however, that he is not arguing against cloud solutions, as the cloud holds an enormous potential to optimize an ISP’s business:
– Collecting big data through a cloud solution allows ISPs to analyze and spot trends and challenges on a larger scale. ISPs can see when and where whole areas are disconnected, or spot connection patterns for different types of devices, to mention just a few examples. When used strategically, this kind of data insight allows ISPs to improve their service and, in the end, deliver better in-home experiences, he says and adds:
– But this won’t help the individual home overnight. Therefore, relying on cloud solutions when decentralized router intelligence is more than enough makes things more complicated and expensive than necessary.
Illustrations: How ICONS Reporting Module adds a graphical representation of potential issues and major incidents in the network
Want to know more about Wi-Fi performance and optimization?
Please reach out to Technical Program Manager, Jens Bundgaard at firstname.lastname@example.org