TIS2023: Providers’ home network services should focus on consumer simplicity, value

Aug. 3, 2023
A group of panelists at the Independent Show 2023 see the potential in advancing new home services but emphasize simplicity.

The Independent Show, Minneapolis, MN--Speaking on the Leaders Panel: "Technology Disruptors, Keeping up with Change & Evolving Customer Needs," a group of independent cable and competitive fiber providers agreed that while there are opportunities to enable home services, the goal should be able to make them work seamlessly for consumers.

With a well-established set of standards under the 802.11 umbrella, the initial service providers have moved to offer managed Wi-Fi.

MTCO Communications’ MaxPak offering provides customers with unlimited Data for only an additional $14 per month when combined with the above Premium Managed Home Wi-Fi Service for residential customers.

“There’s still much life left in managed Wi-Fi, and the product has continued to improve,” said Brian Kettman, CTO of MTCO Communications. “Managed Wi-Fi is still supercritical.”

Additionally, MTCO is looking at providing business-grade managed Wi-Fi and community Wi-Fi. “We’re looking at providing a managed Wi-Fi service tailored towards business customers, and there are community Wi-Fi options we looked at,” Kettman.

Other providers like Bluepeak, which also offers whole home Wi-Fi options over its cable and growing fiber broadband networks, are also keen to advance their services to consumers and businesses. 

Cash Hagen, CTO of Bluepeak, said technology and service ideas often don’t consider consumers' needs inside their living rooms. “As a technology-minded person, I believe there’s a lot of great ideas that make sense on how they would work in my home,” he said. “We all sit at our conference room table and drum up. Wouldn’t it be cool if ideas, but where that falls is we don’t put ourselves into the consumer's mind.”

Searching for value

The telco or the cable operator’s responsibility used to end at the demarcation point on the side of the consumer’s house. However, that role has changed as the proliferation of higher-speed broadband has enabled customers to purchase an array of bandwidth-hungry devices like security cameras and video streaming bundles.

While Hagen recognizes that they are getting connectivity home service opportunities, Bluepeak is the point of contact a customer goes to when they have an issue or how to carry a device on the home network.

“We’re getting the calls already where a customer tells us I just put in this garage door opener that says it’s Wi-Fi enabled, and how do I connect that thing,” he said. “A lot of us have become the reputable brand.”  

Ken Johnson, chief digital and technology officer for NewWave Communications, agreed and added that it is “focused on what brings value to the customer.”

He recognizes that while new devices like the Ring Camera have become adopted by more consumers, Ring is the one that has a direct interface with the customer.    

“Ring cameras are great and are easy to use, but we don’t bring any value,” Johnson said. “So many of these things are being developed as add-on products, and the company that develops the product wants to own the customer, which makes it difficult for us to participate in that process.”

He added that New Wave focuses its energy “on the customer experience, reliability, ease of use, but we have not found an opportunity to expand the presence in the home.”  

Building support staff

Providing home services is not just about the widget to sell, and that’s the connection point that would separate independent providers from larger providers, particularly in second-tier markets.

Ken Borelli, president of the NCTC, said smaller providers “still have that local touch, and this is the leverage most of our members have.”

Another key consideration for home service is building a workforce to support the technology and the customer experience. These employees can be trained to focus on supporting the customer experience.

Hagen said that the challenge of recruiting support staff is that they need to not only be able to interface with the customer inside the house to solve a problem but also install cable drops to each premise.

“There are two sides to hiring tech-level folks,” Hagen said. “You have a guy in khakis and a golf shirt interfacing with the customer. That tech also needs to be able to climb the pole outside when it's four degrees outside and when you're done and educate the customer.”

He adds that it “takes a different skillset.”  

Still, one of the main challenges all providers face is attracting and retaining new technical and support talent.“It’s difficult to find someone that can climb poles, touch the snow and take care of the customers,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to figure out how to financially reward people, which we have struggled with, particularly with COVID.”

Johnson said New Wave is looking for new technician hires “to be more technically savvy and be more like a concierge to solve problems in the home, and recruiting for that is part of our focus.” 

About the Author

Sean Buckley

Sean is responsible for establishing and executing the editorial strategies of Lightwave and Broadband Technology Report across their websites, email newsletters, events, and other information products.

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