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November 12, 2018 by Adlane Fellah

The Importance of Managed Home Wi-Fi

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[This blog is the first in a five-part series based on the Maravedis report “From Managed Home Wi-Fi to Enabling the Secure Smart Home 2018-2023”. Look for the other blogs, which will be published here on a weekly basis.]

The home is rapidly becoming an environment that is dense with technology. With the proliferation of devices, a new level of Wi-Fi performance and coverage is required. Because the wireless footprint of these devices varies considerably, if some order isn’t established, an inconsistent Wi-Fi experience seems inevitable.

Wi-Fi performance, and by extension the user experience, can suffer due to many environmental factors, such as congestion, noise, and interference. Many residential subscribers are tackling the problems in their own way (and at their own risk) by purchasing third-party hardware in retail stores. However, if these devices fail to fix their Wi-Fi issues, they will blame their service providers for it, resulting in more service calls, churn, and OpEx (operational expenses) for the carriers.

Service Providers' Strategies

As a result, service providers are now increasingly taking ownership of the Wi-Fi experience and are on a mission to educate their customers and manage their Wi-Fi experience. To this end, while some carriers sell home Wi-Fi as a service, others include it as part of their normal broadband service at no additional cost.

Managing home Wi-Fi transfers the responsibility of having a proper Wi-Fi experience from the end user to the service provider. This transfer requires the service provider to take over control and gain visibility into the home Wi-Fi network through a variety of ways; all of which are detailed in our new report, “From Managed Home Wi-Fi to Enabling the Secure Smart Home 2018-2023”.

Factors Affecting Home Wi-Fi Performance

Throughout the course of our new research report, we asked 5 leading global service providers to identify the top 3 factors that are affecting Wi-Fi performance for their subscribers. Responses included:

  • Poor Access Point Placement: Poor access point (AP) placement is the primary cause of Wi-Fi-related service calls. Poor placement of access points can result in low data rates, signal bleeding, bad roaming coverage, and even overspending on additional APs. Better informed customers, along with more beautiful designs for APs, can definitely contribute to curbing the customer tendency to hide APs in the closet or behind the TV set.
  • Dead Zones: To achieve a good connection, Wi-Fi has to overcome barriers and obstacles—some of which cannot be eliminated by simply purchasing a new wireless router. A dead zone is typically caused by either the structure or size of the home or the walls or materials that block signals.
  • Neighbor Interference: Wi-Fi networks interfere with each other. Older Wi-Fi standards are the worst culprits in this respect, so old Wi-Fi hardware is not just hurting one network—it may also be interfering with neighboring networks. Modern routers often try to automatically choose the best Wi-Fi channel for the least interference.

Towards Multi-Access Points

There are different approaches and elements to solving home Wi-Fi performance and coverage issues. Each vendor we spoke to for our report had its own approach and “secret sauce”, typically comprised of algorithms sold in modules to perform the essential functions needed to solve emerging problems.

Some functions are essential for resolving performance within a single access point (intra-AP), while others are core to enabling improved coverage and roaming (inter-AP). Each software module is designed to perform a particular function or set of functions.

Multi-access point (with or without mesh) networks seek to solve problems with coverage within the home. Wireless mesh network devices (Mesh STAs) form links with one another, over which mesh paths can be established using an ad hoc mobile routing protocol. A key aspect of this architecture is the presence of multi-hop wireless links and routing of packets through other nodes towards the destination nodes.

Conclusion

Overall, providing proper coverage and performance in the home is more complicated than it appears to be. In upcoming blogs, we will look at various examples of operators who have decided to provide a reliable and managed Wi-Fi experience to their residential customers in the context of the proliferation of IoT, the emergence of next generation Wi-Fi, and rising customer care costs.

When it comes to Managed Wi-Fi, Calix has worked with dozens of service providers, offering them a Carrier Class Wi-Fi solution that includes the Calix GigaCenter, Calix Support Cloud, and Calix 804Mesh satellite units.

For more information on the Calix approach to Managed Wi-Fi, you can read the blog “What IS "Managed Wi-Fi" Anyway?