How ISPs can maximize the Quality of Experience (QoE) of home WiFi Connectivity
If only installing broadband and home WiFi were plug-and-play, just plug the fiber into the router/gateway and presto! - you get full coverage and speedy internet inside (and outside) your subscriber’s home. It does work that way sometimes, but if you’re counting on a plug-and-play installation every time... then maybe you haven’t done enough installs.
Here at RouteThis, we ride along with field technicians on WiFi installs. Getting a front-row seat to the live interaction between customers, techs, and the technology helps us design and improve our solutions to work across multiple use cases and (sometimes unexpected) situations. It also helps us identify optimal WiFi installation processes, and find ways to increase adoption by installers.
From our experience, there are three key factors that affect a customer’s WiFi Quality of Experience (QoE): the technology, the home environment, and the customer themselves. The installation marks the start of a measurable, in-service QoE. In this blog, we’ll examine each factor and how they contribute to the best possible QoE, starting at install.
Three key areas that affect Quality of Experience
1. The technology
Without a doubt, WiFi technology is becoming more and more complex. First, there are the new WiFi standards: WiFi 6E products launched in 2023 and WiFi 7 products are mostly launching in 2024. For each standard, there are routers, gateways, access points, extenders, and mesh systems, which are mainstream - albeit still early on the adoption curve.
Then there’s the new 6 GHz frequency band, introduced in WiFi 6E, which offers much more bandwidth but over a shorter range. All this must be backward compatible with older WiFi devices, which will support none of these new features.
Managing technology lifecycles is, of course, nothing new. But when you combine the introduction of fiber, new multi-gig offerings, and the hype from WiFi product manufacturers, customer expectations about technology can become unrealistically high. If a customer on a 100 Mbps xDSL plan upgrades to a 1 Gbps FTTH plan, they’ll get 10x the bandwidth on a speed test, but their mobile phone won’t feel 10x faster.
The installation process provides an excellent educational opportunity for closing the gap between customer expectations and reality. Visually showing customers the maximum bandwidth they can get in the different areas of their home – and having it fully documented – improves QoE and can reduce downstream support calls.
2. The home
Even when the technology and hardware are the same, each customer’s home can be quite different. Walls, floors, furniture, glass, appliances, room clutter – these all absorb WiFi signals and can reduce coverage. Different materials absorb the signal to different degrees (see figure below), and the amount depends on the WiFi frequency band used (2.4 GHz/ 5 GHz/ 6 GHz). With this much variability, each customer’s home WiFi coverage will be unique and therefore hard to predict.
Identifying WiFi dead spots and spotty coverage areas in the home is an integral part of the installation process. Given the proliferation of smart devices, a dead spot that didn’t matter at the time of installation can matter a few months down the road. Having a record of the installation facilitates downstream support calls and helps avoid unnecessary truck rolls.
Yet another factor is WiFi signal interference from other homes. Here, the key factor is their proximity. Customers living in MDUs (multi-dwelling units) like apartments or condos will likely experience interference from their neighbors’ WiFi, but one living on a farm will not. Sometimes WiFi connectivity or performance issues are caused by a change in a neighbor’s hardware or wireless settings and not the customer’s own WiFi network.
3. The customer
Ultimately the customer is at the center of QoE. After all, it’s about their personal experience of the service. The technology and their home environment set the stage, but what happens on stage depends on them. Here are some key factors:
- Router placement: Many people prefer to keep their router/gateway out of sight and hidden away…which can be some of the worst places from a coverage standpoint. Often some customer education (and even negotiation) is needed to arrive at a compromise. The customer is always right, so setting proper expectations for network performance is important during the installation process.
- Applications: Standard QoS metrics such as bandwidth and latency provide a good measure, so long as there is good WiFi coverage where it’s needed. Hence ensuring good coverage in critical areas - where the security cameras are, which room is the home office, where the gaming happens, and whether WiFi repeaters or mesh systems are needed – is an important component of QoE.
- Usage patterns: Why is the video buffering? Traffic congestion can occur either in the home WiFi network, or in the last mile, and these are typically transient issues that come and go. The installation process provides an opportunity to document the QoE metrics of the as-built WiFi network, so that when a new smart TV or gaming console is added and usage patterns change, baseline performance metrics are available for reference and troubleshooting.
Exceptional customer experience starts with a consistent, scalable, and documented WiFi installation process which reduces the variability between installations.
Deliver flawless WiFi from day one
RouteThis Certify improves the quality of WiFi installations by empowering field technicians with the information and tools to proactively address challenges that may arise during a WiFi install - whether it be the technology, the home or the customer.
Certify helps guide ideal CPE placement and identify potential WiFi blockers or the need for additional equipment to eliminate dead spots. Field technicians can capture installation details, including speeds and photos - “Certifying” the installation meets the customer’s expectations and your technical standards.
Learn more about RouteThis Certify