Fixed and cable operators are increasingly delivering 1 Gbps services to residences thanks to new fibre buildouts as well as technologies that can squeeze more capacity out of legacy copper-based solutions.
However, all that technology is wasted if WiFi coverage inside the home is insufficient to keep pace with ever-increasing demand. As a result, operators are increasingly taking matters into their own hands with managed WiFi services.
It is now common for a household to have dozens of WiFi-connected devices, including smartphones, laptops, smart speakers, security systems, smart refrigerators and even connected pets. Ensuring a strong signal everywhere in the home presents multiple challenges: hiding a WiFi access point in a closet (or basement) can lead to coverage gaps, for example.
Once upon a time, the line dividing what home broadband providers like BT, Virgin Media, or Comcast were responsible for and what they expected the customer to be responsible for was clear: they brought the pipe to the house, and the customer brought the WiFi. However, these operators find an increasing number of customer service calls coming from poor WiFi service and not the broadband pipe coming into the home.
As a result, these operators are now taking matters into their own hands by offering managed WiFi services. And the vendors that support these operators are providing new technologies to help operators monitor and manage in-home networking experience. For example, Adtran, which traditionally has sold fibre access systems to broadband providers, introduced a solution called Intellifi in August that enables customers to plug in up to five access points throughout the house to form a ‘mesh’ of WiFi coverage. As importantly, the Adtran system enables operators to remotely monitor in-home service to ensure customers are getting the level of service they expect.
Adtran is by no means the only vendor offering in-home managed WiFi: Nokia has offered what it calls a whole-home WiFi solution for operators for several years, while access point vendors themselves have long offered managed WiFi for enterprise customers. But, the move toward managed home WiFi does appear to be gaining traction among broadband providers as a way to possibly generate new revenue – or forego the extra revenue and just keep its customers happy as they continue to ask more and more from their broadband connections.