It wasn’t that long ago when a home was simply a roof and four walls, providing the basic amenities a person might need. Today, the concept of a home has significantly evolved to become a bustling communications hub where screens flicker at every turn and signals zip throughout the premise to connect devices. The result? Demand for fast, high-capacity data and whole-home connectivity has never been greater and is growing at unprecedented rates.
However, a connected home today is only as powerful as the broadband network supplying it. It’s no longer enough for service providers to simply bring ultra-broadband services to the home. Operators must now be able to bring it into the home and deliver on the promise of gigabit speeds to every home connection and device. Doing this effectively requires the right mix of technologies both in the network and in the home.
Challenges to Overcome
For years, service providers have relied on a single residential gateway tucked away in a closet along with one or two additional access points to deliver an effective whole-home WiFi customer experience. However, this approach is coming under pressure with the number of smart home devices and high-bandwidth applications such as online gaming and streaming services growing in use.
As traditional in-home WiFi networks seem unable to keep up with the demands of today’s connected society, frustrated consumers are turning to their service providers for help. Approximately 30 percent of calls to a help desk relate to poor in-home connectivity, creating challenges for operators to troubleshoot these issues — a potentially timely and costly endeavor — or face losing their subscriber base entirely.
With limited network visibility into the home, service providers must resort to trial and error methods to determine if the issue is the result of coverage gaps, capacity, wireless interference from appliances like microwaves or access points being improperly installed.
To overcome these challenges, better visibility into the home and a more intuitive, automated method for establishing and managing the network is needed.
Delivering a Better WiFi Experience
Fortunately, solutions are emerging that can improve service providers’ WiFi offerings and deliver a better end-to-end experience to the home.
For instance, there are now meshed WiFi network solutions that use algorithms to automate band steering and channel hopping to help improve overall performance and create full in-home coverage with seamless roaming capabilities without service interruption. Additionally, new software and embedded analytic functions available in certain gateways and beacons can help compile insights on the network, devices and interference sources to automatically self-heal and optimize the WiFi experience. Finally, new mobile applications are providing end-users with access to a wide array of self-install, network care and troubleshooting capabilities along with a simplified view of their WiFi network — complete with heat maps and a scanning function to easily locate and manage dead zones.
Beyond the network, it’s also imperative for service providers to gain in-home visibility that’s essential for troubleshooting potential network issues. Having access to a WiFi home portal, for instance, could provide the operators with a holistic view of an end-user’s in-home WiFi network and allow them to effectively manage devices, quickly identify and resolve issues or upsell new services — such as broadband capacity or additional beacons — to improve network performance.
When the network is performing as it should, it’s crucial that in-home network speeds are maximized to their full potential to ensure a quality experience across the entire home. Mesh technology not only enables ultra-fast speeds that customers have come to expect, but is also capable of eliminating the complexities and frustrations that come with managing or optimizing the home WiFi network.
With the right software, operators can add intelligence to meshed environments, bringing benefits that enhance real-time management through automated band steering and channel hopping. It can also add capabilities that improve the overall performance of each user device by creating a digital fingerprint that automatically adapts its connection to provide an optimized, tailored customer experience.
Above and Beyond
As the digital evolution pushes more into our living rooms, kitchens and offices, so too must our WiFi networks. With the right in-home WiFi solution, service providers can help customers move beyond the traditional challenges of whole-home coverage and help them maximize their digital homes. Without it, customers may just be better off with four walls and a roof.
Mike Chen is VP of the Digital Home Business Unit for Nokia Fixed Networks.