August 2, 2019 by Greg Owens

Managed Wi-Fi Explained: An Update from the Field


For the past two years you’ve heard my colleagues and I talking about the importance of service providers managing all aspects of their subscribers’ home network to ensure the best possible connected experience. Given some recent developments, I thought that it would be a good time for a Managed Wi-Fi update.

All aboard the Managed Wi-Fi bandwagon

For starters, I’m happy to report that many service providers are now offering Managed Wi-Fi services. According to the results of surveys conducted during two Calix webinars hosted in Q1 of this year, 77 percent of service providers are offering a Managed Wi-Fi service today.*

What IS Managed Wi-Fi?

We’ve discovered through hundreds of conversations with individual service providers that companies define Managed Wi-Fi differently. So, let’s first discuss what it is not. Managed Wi-Fi is NOT equipment rental. If you are simply providing a router to subscribers for a monthly fee, you are just renting equipment to them.

To provide a Managed or Whole Home Wi-Fi solution you should be able to clearly define the benefits to your subscribers. Some of the most common features that we see highlighted are remote support, repair or replacement of the router, on-site support, an app to manage the home network, and an in-home Wi-Fi assessment. These provide subscribers with a worry-free experience. With no anxiety about picking the right router off the shelf at a big box store, no trip charges or hourly fees to have someone troubleshoot their Wi-Fi, there is a clear benefit to subscribers. 

For service providers that have not yet taken the plunge, this blog is intended to explain some of the benefits, for you and your subscribers, associated with a Managed Wi-Fi service. 

Some misguided subscribers are turning to consumer Wi-Fi solutions

You may have read the recent white paper that we commissioned from Parks Associates — Open for Business: Future Flexibility for Smart Home Services. The paper cited recent (Q4 2018) research indicating that 37 percent of households in the United States with Wi-Fi reported that their connection seems slow at least once a week and another 20 percent report coverage problems. To address these network connectivity issues, 22 percent have purchased Wi-Fi extenders. As the report states, this “relegates the carrier-provided gateway to ‘bridge’ mode.”

In fact, many of our service provider customers have historically struggled with challenges associated with consumer-grade routers and extenders in their subscribers’ homes. James Byerley explains why this was problematic for West River Tel in North Dakota in this short video. Here’s an excerpt:

“Previously, we were using an ADSL modem and it was limited in what it could do. Our customers were constantly asking for better products and we weren’t providing them. So, they were going out and buying their own. Then, we had a mismatch of gear out there, which made troubleshooting much more difficult.”

You can read Part 2 of this series from my colleague, Bridget Watkins, next week to hear more about how you can offer a great solution to your subscribers.

* A total of 113 service providers attended Calix webinars on January 23 and February 13, 2019. 87/113 service providers (77 percent) indicated that they were offering a Managed Wi-Fi service. 26/113 (23 percent) indicated that they were not.