January 20, 2021 by Greg Owens

Wi-Fi 6 Can Resolve Many of Your Help-Desk Calls


A Pew Research Center survey from April 2020 found that 87 percent of American adults feel that the internet has been “essential” or “important” during the ongoing pandemic. As Jimmy Kimmel put it: “If I had to choose between running water and Wi-Fi, I would drink my pool.” 

At the same time, more and more consumers are reporting ongoing issues with their Internet connections. Another April 2020 study, this one from Waveform, reports that nearly 53 percent of respondents were reporting Internet connectivity issues at least once a month. More than 15 percent were reporting daily issues. 

Connectivity issues have a huge impact on support costs for communications service providers (CSPs). I wanted to quantify this a bit further so, during a recent Calix webinar (“The Science of Wi-Fi”), I asked attendees this question: “What is the number one driver of calls to your help desk?” Two primary issues emerged: 

  • Wi-Fi performance caused by coverage problems (cited by 61.5 percent of the 161 respondents); and 
  • Wi-Fi performance caused by interference (reported by 20.5 percent). 

We’ve been hearing for years that Wi-Fi issues drive support calls, but these results still surprised me. And it inspired me to write this blog because two of the improvements included in the latest Wi-Fi technical standard (802.11ax) are improved coverage and reduced interference. 

Wi-Fi 6 Technology Improves Coverage 

When the new Wi-Fi 6 standard was finalized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 2019, one of the declared benefits was an improvement to the range of the Wi-Fi signal. Our testing validates these claims. In fact, we have seen a 20-30 percent improvement in coverage when connecting to Wi-Fi 6-enabled client devices. (We have also seen coverage improvements for legacy client devices. Not the same 20-30 percent, but improvements nonetheless.) 

In addition, new Wi-Fi 6 systems are better designed than previous systems—with better radio technology, better processing power, and better airtime efficiencies—which also contributes to improved coverage. 

Wi-Fi 6 Technology Reduces Interference 

In addition to improving the range of the wireless signals, new Wi-Fi 6 systems have better interference-handling techniques. In the case of the Calix portfolio of GigaSpire BLAST Wi-Fi systems, technologies like dynamic channel selection (DCS) and dynamic frequency selection (DFS) further reduce the negative impacts of interference. 

New Year, New Home Network Technology 

The second question that I asked the recent webinar audience was: “What are your plans for offering Wi-Fi 6 to your subscribers/members?” From our 150 respondents: 

  • 36 percent were already offering Wi-Fi 6 systems; 
  • 17 percent have plans to offer Wi-Fi 6 systems early this year; 
  • 39 percent are still evaluating Wi-Fi 6 systems; and 
  • 7 percent are waiting for 6E (6 GHz) support.  

I’ll address the last (and smallest) group of respondents in a future blog, but you can rest assured that Calix will be introducing systems with 6 GHz radios in 2021. Stay tuned for more details. 

As for the 39 percent still evaluating Wi-Fi 6 systems, I would strongly encourage them to accelerate this process. Dozens of connected devices are already available with Wi-Fi 6 functionality, including smart phones, tablets, PCs, laptops, and even some smart TVs. 

The big players—like Comcast and Verizon—have already launched Wi-Fi 6 systems. More than 400 Calix CSP partners are doing the same—including ALLO (Nebraska), Norvado (Wisconsin), GVTC (Texas), and Paul Bunyan (Minnesota)—with many positioning these new systems as part of Premium Managed Wi-Fi solutions.  

Ready To Lower Support Calls in 2021?  

Contact us to schedule a marketing consult where you can learn more about offering one of our powerful BLAST Wi-Fi systems as part of a Managed Wi-Fi offer. You can also get more information about our EDGE Enablement program, which provides a massive repository of marketing resources and assets—including videos, brochures, product material, bill inserts, digital marketing ads, and much more—all designed to be quickly customized and deployed. 

To learn more about how Silver Star reduced its truck rolls, register for our January 27 webinar “Winning in 2021: Lessons From Silver Star To Help You Drive Revenue”