If cable operators want to start making some money off WiFi, they had better focus squarely on the user's quality of experience.
While the quality of service (QoS) delivered over the wireless network is naturally quite important, the quality of experience (QoE) delivered to each customer clearly trumps it these days. If a user's personal experience turns out to be lackluster or worse, it doesn't really matter how smoothly the overall network might be performing or how well the WiFi access points might be handing off calls to each other. If the user experience is lacking, the customer will still not be a happy camper and may find a new provider.
Mobile network operators have learned this lesson the hard way, watching their subscribers churn out in bunches because of dropped calls, poor sound quality, delayed signals, missed messages, unexpected coverage gaps and the like. As a result, the wireless industry has now invested billions of dollars to bring its networks up to snuff and meet its customers' rising expectations for solid connections.
Whether cable operators are considering a pioneering WiFi-only strategy like Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) or a still-ambitious WiFi-first approach like Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and other MSOs, they must make that same strong commitment to QoE. If they don't, their attempts to monetize their new wireless services will inevitably fall flat. (See Time to Monetize Cable WiFi and How to Monetize WiFi (Part 1).)
So how can cable operators make the WiFi subscriber's QoE just as fine as it can be? While there are no precise technical standards for assuring mobile QoE, because it's such a broad issue, several key components go into making it so.
For one thing, cable operators must make sure that they do not drop connections as subscribers roam between WiFi access points, or roam between WiFi and cellular networks. That means automating handoffs between access points and networks so that subscribers always have the best possible connections and can roam freely and seamlessly across the land.
For another, it calls for the use of data analytics to track the network's performance down to each user, collect that information and leverage it to identify any coverage gaps, signal conflicts, network congestion, QoE degradation and handoff challenges, such as trailing WiFi where a customer is effectively "stuck" on a WiFi access point when better options exist. Much of that data is already available for operators. The problem is that they haven't been able to use to their advantage.
Furthermore, cable operators need actionable data to ensure that customers are connected to the best available WiFi access point, or an alternate option in the case of a WiFi First approach. Operators can track QoE in three critical locations -- at the mobile device itself, the WiFi access point or the alternate network access point. Monitoring QoE at both the device and the network access point provides the most comprehensive view of a customer's experience. Such monitoring also enables operators to gather information from the subscriber's perspective and apply analytics to make the best decisions about the network's capacity and any partnership considerations. Companies like Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX) offer software and analytics solutions in this area.
Once they have taken care of the user's QoE, cable providers can finally turn all their attention to monetizing their wireless service. While cable business models for selling WiFi service have not been firmly established yet, one promising idea is to leverage WiFi to offer new, bundled product offerings, not just wireless connections.
For instance, cable operators might consider using WiFi to offer an HD Video Anywhere product to subscribers, a product that will rely heavily upon monitoring a user's QoE and dynamically moving customers to the best connection option as appropriate. Thus, operators can promote the new video service to subscribers, rather than the wireless connectivity.
But, without the proper tools to manage a customer's QoE and measure service quality, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for cable operators to make much progress with monetization. So it seems best to take care of subscribers first and then the money should start flowing in.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading
This blog is sponsored by Amdocs.