Demystifying Home WiFi

Oct. 25, 2016
By Monta Monaco Hernon - As WiFi continues its march to ubiquity, customer expectations are growing. When they experience problems, such ...

As WiFi continues its march to ubiquity, customer expectations are growing. When they experience problems, such as lower speeds or trouble connecting in parts of their home, they call their service provider.

More than half MSO inbound service calls are related to WiFi issues. A third of these result in truck rolls, and 80% of these dispatches result in hardware changes, according to Hitron. The top areas for complaints are speed, coverage and client connection.

"Replacing equipment doesn't (always repair) the problem," said Greg Fisher, Hitron Americas CTO, noting that consumer end devices vary in capability. "You are not going to get speeds with older equipment. An (older) iPad won't hit the max speed on a 300 Mbps connection."

The concept of a self-healing WiFi network is intended to offer operators visibility into and control over WiFi environments in the subscriber home. This will help with installation, customer awareness about the network, and troubleshooting.

The first step for Hitron has been the creation of an app that can help the technician locate the best spot in to place the WiFi gateway. The app details the WiFi connectivity in each part of the home, which also determines where to place extenders.

"Part of WiFi self-healing is getting the initial installation good," Fisher said.

The customer can then use the app to see the possible performance for every client connected to the WiFi network. It also will demonstrate the concept of a shared network. They can view the difference between what the MSO delivers in aggregate to the home and what performance is possible when there are 20 devices connected and three to five clients actively consuming bandwidth at the same time.

Hitron recently announced it would use ASSIA's CloudCheck WiFi optimization and diagnostics solution in its home gateway devices. Using quality of service (QoS) parameters like noise and total throughput and historical data, a client can be switched automatically or even preemptively between the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band.

"What the cloud brings is huge amounts of data storage and computing power in excess of the device. (You) can look at a longer time period and provide the gateway (information) about when to do optimizations or how (they) happen so it can make better decisions as the product is used over a period of time," Fisher said.

Returning to the three most problematic WiFi issues from a customer perspective, the final one was client connection. If a customer changes the WiFi password and subsequently forgets it, the only way to recover has been to have the MSO reset it, which involves re-authenticating every client. With Hitron's app, the customer will be notified that an authorization failed and will be asked if they want to display their current password.

"A push of the button gets the information the customer needs," Fisher said.

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