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Taking control of Wi-Fi related QoE and avoiding customer calls and truck rolls

Tony Costa, Executive Vice President and CTO, OpenVault
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As streaming video consumption continues to reach new highs and emerging tech-driven experiences transform the way consumers watch and interact with video in particular, the number of devices within the home is also multiplying exponentially. This compound shift has far-reaching implications not only for the users, but more significantly, for the operators that provide the broadband network and bandwidth power.

With the proliferation of devices, Wi-Fi is becoming the primary connection between broadband services and the subscriber devices on which they increasingly are relying to view OTT content. In the UK alone, OTT video service subscriptions have surpassed traditional Pay TV subscriptions, according to Ofcom. Park Associates estimates that the percentage of UK broadband households that were likely to cancel their subscriptions as of late 2018 had doubled to 24 per cent from 12 per cent just three years earlier.

The problem this poses for operators is this: even when home Wi-Fi networks are installed by customers themselves, those same customers associate Wi-Fi speed, coverage and reliability as quality elements of the operators’ delivered broadband service. With video consumption shifting away from managed networks, operators face challenges of keeping up with demand, enabling faster speeds, managing network connectivity, and providing quality of experience – even on Wi-Fi networks for which they are not responsible.

These subscriber management issues will only increase with the imminent explosion of 4K and UHD streaming video content, as well as IoT and streaming video gaming. For example, regardless of the bandwith quality to the home, subscribers routinely call Customer Care departments to demand answers regarding slow Internet speeds, excessive buffering and lack of network connectivity on Wi-Fi connected video devices. Without visibility into the subscriber’s end-to-end service delivery, data usage and device environment, the customer service representative will usually resort to sending a technician to the subscriber’s home/office — a costly and time-consuming truck-roll endeavor.

Resolving issues more quickly and more cost-effectively requires deeper visibility into the home combined with prescriptive and automated remediation before trucks are rolled.  In order to diagnose problems, manage network capacity and provide an optimal user experience, operators’ customer care departments need a holistic view of the entire delivery ecosystem, from the serving network, node, and modem health all the way down to the Wi-Fi and ethernet connected devices.

While operators have been monitoring overall network health for some time, awareness of the performance of Wi-Fi-connected devices within the home is only now emerging as a priority. The key is real-time and proactive troubleshooting, diagnosis and resolution of problems; for example, visibility into the Wi-Fi signal strength of devices within a home can enable subscribers’ issues to be resolved on the first call, without requiring a tech home visit. This capability will become increasingly important as more and more major sports and entertainment events are streamed live.

By leveraging the TR-069 protocol via an Auto-Configuration Server, operators can gain unprecedented visibility into the home, providing device-level analysis — including the number of devices currently and historically connected to the modem and the signal strength each device is exhibiting – while protecting the privacy of the subscriber. Combining TR-069 data with usage behavior and network performance  produces the most accurate and complete view of the entire network-subscriber environment. Machine learning can augment the visibility into the end-to-end service delivery quality of each subscriber with the execution of prescriptive actions based on the detected conditions.

Early implementations of this approach are showing tangible operational and business benefits – including reduction of calls to customer care, reductions in overall call times, truck rolls and technical support escalation – all of which can reduce operating costs and improve overall customer satisfaction. The effect of this real-time, holistic visibility and prescriptive automated resolution resonates throughout the entire operator organization:

  • Customer Care can use the insights to better service subscribers and provide tangible cost savings;
  • Engineering can see which connected devices might be causing issues on the network, allowing for proactive actions and avoiding quality of service issues; and
  • Marketing and Sales can use device topology information to help identify subscribers whose video consumption would be better served by a faster bandwidth package.

With video streaming growth showing no sign of abating, operators must come to grips with the clear correlation between the number and type of devices inside the home and the bandwidth required to provide quality service. Such a holistic view of network and device ecosystems can help right-size subscribers, encouraging their migration to packages that increase video quality of experience while driving more revenue. By leveraging these technologies and tools, operators can realise increased customer satisfaction and retention as well as reduced costs and increased revenue, all of which are critical to success on the broadband frontier.

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