In the regions of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), adoption of Wi-Fi in the home is on the rise. With that comes increasing pressure for network service providers (NSPs) to deliver Wi-Fi services that meet customers’ performance and quality expectations and also generate new revenue opportunities.
The Future Trust recently sat down with Bart Vercammen, Vice President Of Product Management at Technicolor’s Connected Home Division, to hear about the Wi-Fi opportunities for NSPs in EMEA and the steps they’re taking to deliver managed Wi-Fi services.
Vercammen: If you look at Wi-Fi, until very recently, it has always been a “best effort” service for NSPs. Wi-Fi has been delivered from the typical gateway offered by and operator – a cable company or a telco – to the end subscriber.
However, as the connected home environment becomes more complex -- because more devices are appearing that need wireless access to the Internet – consumers have been exposed to more performance problem.
As a result, either video bridges or extenders have been brought to the market through the retail channel to help consumers to solve Wi-Fi issues.
While this creates more access points, this approach does not solve all of the problems that cause performance difficulties – in some cases it does not even address the primary challenges.
What has been lacking from the NSP community is a creative vision or a managed solution to make sure that the overall Wi-Fi experience is managed in a way that makes sure the quality was being delivered.
Vercammen: Yes, that’s correct. It is about coming up with a service level agreement (SLA) for consumers that guarantee in-home wireless network performance. We’re not yet there, but that’s at least a goal — to make sure that you can guarantee a sort of minimum speed within the home on Wi-Fi. The objective is to make sure the service consumers pay for, from a broadband perspective, is something you can also witness through to the end device that is connected via Wi-Fi.
Vercammen: I think more and more this is becoming a very strategic issue. Customers don’t always have the best user experiences on Wi-Fi, which is why a number of players are going through the retail channel to offer these kinds of OTT managed solutions to try to solve the issues.
So, if operators are not careful, they risk s losing the battle of who controls the service for managing the overall broadband experience.
In the end, people connect more and more over Wi-Fi. And today, they connect over the Wi-Fi via the NSP. But if that service is not good enough, it might be that a retail player or an OTT provider can come in with a managed Wi-Fi offering. And then the Service Set Identifier (SSID) network that’s being used is with one of the OTT players.
So, it is interesting. If Wi-Fi is the principal way to access broadband services, the true war for engaging with subscribers may be won by winning the battle for the SSID.
Vercammen: It depends on geography...on consumer patterns of behavior and what subscribers are willing to pay for and so on. However, this managed Wi-Fi concept certainly allows NSPs to change the economics of their service for the better.
In essence, managed Wi-Fi allows NSPs to improve the user experience. For some NSPs, this will result in a reduction in cost and total cost of ownership, just by reducing in-bound customer service calls.
It might reduce churn and improve the customer experience. At that level, there’s not necessarily an increased revenue per user (RPU) that being generate.
On the other hand, some operators may see this as a way to sell a managed service to their consumers, where you can say: “Okay, if you pay x amount of dollars or euros a month, you basically get a service from me that guarantees the best Wi-Fi, and I make sure that everything is covered inside.”
Vercammen: Yes, that’s correct. And if you look at the industry today, a lot of focus has been on full-on coverage and managed Wi-Fi, about making sure that the devices roam around the house without experiencing performance issues.
In fact, this is only the last part of the chain. The most important part of delivering managed Wi-Fi is that it starts with understanding what Wi-Fi is about, what the Wi-Fi status is in the home, what are the things that go well, and what are the things that go wrong. That’s typically the first step.
The second step is then about making sure you can optimize your Wi-Fi in the home, knowing which things are going wrong and how things can be optimized.
Then the next step is saying, “Look, here is where I need access points, and these are the extenders I need to put in.” Then, only at that point, do you install the equipment needed to ensure the devices are connected at the right access points.
But the first steps are typically the ones that are being forgotten and that offer the essence of a managed service.
Vercammen: Yes, I think it’s clear. Wi-Fi issues represent, broadly, between 20 to 50 percent of the help desk issues that are being called in to NSPs. So, huge amounts of calls are related to Wi-Fi.
And even here, you are only talking about the people who call. You’re not talking about the people who are unhappy and just are not doing anything about it.
If you then compare this situation to what is happening on the retail and OTT front – where devices and companies offering to solve Wi-Fi issues are very popular -- you begin to see the need. And the more that people go toward these retail/OTT solutions -- or change providers because it might be better somewhere else -- it affects the NSP/subscriber relationship.
If people are unhappy that they can’t get the broadband experience they feel they are paying for — and they typically pay a decent amount of money for getting certain speeds — it leads to frustration. They’re unhappy and, in fact, the brand image of the operator is affected.
Vercammen: I think it’s a multidimensional problem and solution. Technicolor has focused first on making sure that the monitoring and optimization of the Wi-Fi networks can be done correctly -- and this is with projects that are live and deployed today.
We have a cloud-based service, called Wi-Fi Doctor, which directly address this challenge. The service ensures coverage problems are solved, and we have a portfolio of extenders and devices that you can be placed inside the home so that NSPs can addressed this “diagnosed” issues.
We’re making sure that -- either through apps or by other means -- installation and unboxing and first use of these devices is properly done so that NSPs can avoid as many help-desk calls as possible.
Last but not least, Technicolor is introducing “intelligent management” technology – with our Wi-Fi Conductor service -- to make sure that devices are always connected in the best way within the home so that the user experience is maximized.
So, we have a portfolio of Wi-Fi services and devices to offer a managed Wi-Fi solution to our customers that helps them deliver a real, guaranteed Wi-Fi service to their customers.