Whose Wi-Fi is it anyway?

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    By Philippe Alcaras, CEO, AirTies

    Considering all this talk about home Wi-Fi being the new “last mile”, the final loop providing Internet access to wireless end devices, the question naturally arises whether this means it should become part of the broadband operator’s domain or even just their full responsibility.

    There are plenty of reasons for objection, not least because unlike the old last mile, the Wi-Fi network is not under the operator’s immediate control. Consumers connect from old devices, roam away from the nearest Access Point (AP), make internal structural changes that may impact signal propagation, or electrically noisy neighbours may move in next door.

    Consumers themselves want the best of both worlds, retaining control over their Wi-Fi installation but calling operators to sort out any problems that arise.

    One possible solution is to adopt the same model as some energy or water utilities in offering to guarantee the home distribution network as an extra service. This approach has met with considerable success in a number of markets, with consumers willing to accept this is something they should pay for.

    Yet there is little evidence so far of people taking a similar attitude to Wi-Fi, perhaps because radio waves are invisible. So given that the broadband operator normally provides the wireless router to terminate its fixed line, there is the assumption that the user’s devices are effectively connected directly to it, ignoring the wireless link in the middle. For this reason, like it or not, broadband operators are going to have to support their customers’ home Wi-Fi – to some extent, at least.

    It will become firstly a valuable service differentiator and then an essential part of the service, taken as a given. A number of operators have already moved quite a long way in this direction by training their call centre help desk staff to troubleshoot Wi-Fi as well as broadband problems. They will make helpful suggestions such as moving to the higher frequency 5 GHz band when it is available and the 2.4 GHZ band is congested.

    But worthy as such efforts are, it is hardly an ideal situation since it leaves the customer having to try things out to see what works best, when what is really needed is for the service to just deliver the same experience as a wired connection all the time.

    The technology is now available to ensure optimum Wi-Fi performance and uptime with total home coverage under the most testing network conditions, for example AirTies’ Mesh technology.

    The message from operators then, should be that yes, they will provide total home support for Wi-Fi, but in return the consumer should pay for the appropriate equipment according to the needs of their house – or it can be bundled in with the service package.

    This will usually amount to just one or two smart APs suitably located and all that is required of the customer is to leave them alone to do their job. There is then no restriction over how the network is used, what devices are connected or where they are located in the home.

    There is a precedent here in the way people are prepared to pay well over the odds for high quality components delivering other utilities in the home. After all, why else would people buy expensive Gröhe taps for their sinks or baths.

    The same logic should apply to Wi-Fi, it is all about absolute comfort at home.

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