Delivering World-Class Wi-Fi to Every Corner of the Home —
As innovative Internet of Things (IoT) devices and applications continue to become increasingly present throughout the home, delivering super-fast, reliable, residential broadband connectivity is a must for today’s service providers. Reliable in-home connectivity is the foundation of an effective smart home and is the key to unlocking potential new applications, while delivering the ultimate connected user experience.
For service providers this is no easy feat, as the excellent ultra-fast broadband service they bring to the home is often undone by poor connectivity inside the home, causing coverage blackspots and poor performance which leads to customer complaints. As more consumers connect devices in the home and invest in connected home technology, these problems can become unacceptable as any drop-in connectivity could lead to customer frustrations that can impact their broadband experience or ultimately to malfunctions with important connected devices such as fridges, fire alarms or thermostats.
Consequently, service providers must make delivering world-class Wi-Fi to every corner of the home a top priority. And to do so, they must put the end-user at the heart of their Wi-Fi strategies, ensuring they can deliver the faster, better, smarter network experience their applications are demanding.
A Challenge and Opportunity
Today, more than 45 million smart home devices are installed across homes in the US, according to Statista. While this figure may just represent the US, the rapid use of home automation technology is becoming increasingly present across the globe. In addition to this, home owners are shying away from traditional broadcasting and are turning to streaming services and Ultra High-Definition (UHD) TV for a more innovative, immersive experience.
The exponential growth of connected devices is putting significant pressure on whole-home Wi-Fi networks, and as the number and the variation of them increase, signal interference from appliances such as microwaves, Bluetooth devices, and baby monitors, is also coming into the equation — with interference from neighbors’ Wi-Fi also adding into the mix.
For many users, the concept of Wi-Fi and broadband access are synonymous, putting service providers on the front line of customer complaints if Wi-Fi performance is impacted. This is resulting in an influx of help desk calls by users frustrated by their Wi-Fi performance, with more than 30% to 50% of calls related to poor in-home connectivity, according to ABI Research. And with limited visibility and control over the performance of the third-party Wi-Fi solutions installed in their customers’ home networks, service providers are often left at a standstill when it comes to troubleshooting issues, which can often lead to lengthy trial and error procedures or expensive visits to diagnose issues.
Wi-Fi is a significant challenge for service providers across the world and is often the biggest hurdle on the road to ensuring consistent, reliable broadband experience for their customers.
In a bid to deliver ultra-fast connectivity to their customers, service providers are upgrading their networks to ensure the ultra-fast broadband service they provide can reach the doors of their customers’ homes. Extending this service into the home is the biggest challenge, with current Wi-Fi routers or third-party networking solutions seen as the bottleneck in delivering seamless connectivity.
In the home, coverage can also be inhibited by the number of indoor walls a signal may need to travel through. For instance, a customer may be able to seamlessly stream their favorite movie in their living room where the Wi-Fi router is located but experience trouble streaming it in their bedroom.
To help solve this issue, customers are turning to mesh Wi-Fi architectures that will use multiple wireless access points to deliver coverage to every corner of the home. These access points are designed so that end-users can easily install them in their homes to achieve greater coverage. However, if whole-home Wi-Fi is to deliver on the promise of a gigabit home experience for end-users, it must support intelligent mesh Wi-Fi capabilities and the software and analytics which can optimize Wi-Fi networks for maximum performance.
Intelligent Mesh Networks
By embedding analytics into the mesh network architecture, real-time analysis of Wi-Fi network performance can be enabled, giving service providers the tools and capabilities to scan home environments for potential interferences. Once an interference has been found, embedded analytics work their magic to compile insights on the network, devices and interference sources, regardless of whether it is a Wi-Fi or non-Wi-Fi interference.
Once the source of interference has been identified, the Wi-Fi network is able to immediately mitigate the issue by seamlessly moving to a stronger channel. This is where real-time analytics step in, ensuring that each end-user device or application is guided to the nearest or fastest access point to ensure the best and most optimal path through the network is achieved. While assuring the best connectivity for end-users, access points must be set up so that they are interconnected, ensuring that backhaul traffic can offload efficiently.
It is also vital that devices can roam from one access point to another as quickly as possible. This will ensure minimal packet loss and disruption to the session in progress and provide consistent Wi-Fi coverage and quality. This is particularly true for critical devices, such as IoT-based security systems, healthcare devices and connected appliances which could malfunction should connectivity be lost.
The network can also use device finger printing to detect critical devices — as well as automatically detect webcams — ensuring that end-users are notified when connectivity drops or fails. In addition, this allows the network to identify what type of device is connected to it, whether it be a smartphone or a smart TV. This ensures that the network can meet the specific bandwidth requirements of each individual device, providing greater quality of experience for end-users. In particular, embedded Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) multicasting capabilities ensure the correct amount of bandwidth can be allocated to TV streaming applications, ensuring end-users can seamlessly enjoy Over the Top (OTT) services such as Netflix and Amazon TV.
For service providers, embedded software and analytic functions ensure that their customers’ networks are able to automatically self-heal, eliminating the need to manually manage networks to achieve optimal Wi-Fi performance.
A Holistic Approach
If service providers are to meet the demands of a modern, IoT enabled home, they must have a holistic approach when it comes to their networks.
Besides ensuring whole-home, reliable Wi-Fi connectivity, service providers must also be able to detect, manage and resolve issues within connected devices. An effective Wi-Fi home portal would allow them to holistically view the entire Wi-Fi network along with the devices running over it in real-time — empowering them to immediately resolve issues and upsell services, such as additional broadband capacity or access points. Additionally, this allows service providers to access and view home networks in real time, while providing them with recommendations to remedy the issue, eliminating the need for technical experts on the help desk, which in turn, will significantly reduce costs.
By providing these same efficiencies to end users through a mobile app, support calls can also be significantly reduced.
Nevertheless, innovative Wi-Fi mesh solutions and intuitive end-user mobile applications will be insufficient in delivering the ultimate user experience if access networks aren’t also kept up to speed. Whether utilizing fixed access technology to enable gigabit broadband speeds over ordinary copper telephone lines or powering gigabit fiber communities, service providers must ensure that they are able to deliver a gigabit to each and every home. And that is why it’s critical that they choose a network partner that can deliver this, as well as design and provide the advanced, intelligent Customer Premises Equipment that will realize the full potential of the smart home.
Nokia Fixed Networks, for example, is already enabling AIS, a high-speed broadband provider in Thailand, to provide an intelligent, mesh Wi-Fi network to its customers that significantly enhances its ultra-broadband coverage and performance.
It’s clear that the advanced capabilities of intelligent mesh Wi-Fi networks will revolutionize the connected home experience, providing a reliable network which can eliminate dead spots and optimize performance, ensuring end-users receive a seamless broadband experience throughout every corner of every house, regardless of their device.
These innovations, combined with advancements in fixed network access technologies and IoT device management platforms, are delivering a faster, better, smarter network experience for end users, while providing service providers the tools to reduce OpEx, enhance customer loyalty, and create additional revenue generating opportunities.