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Cable Wi-Fi

How to Monetize WiFi (Part 2)

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.


Need to know more about the opportunities and challenges posed by cable WiFi? Then check out the agenda for Light Reading's breakfast seminar, Winning With WiFi: How Cable Operators Can Optimize & Monetize Their WiFi Networks, October 14, 2015, at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, co-located at Cable-Tec Expo.


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.

Susan Fourtané 10/15/2015 | 8:32:19 AM
Re: how do end users really use WiFi? jabailo, exactly. At least all the Airbnb places I have found have broadband. People would find it quite hard to rent a place which doesn't include broadband. And yes, going to libraries also works well. I particularly like lbraries, and now I have a small international collection of library cards. :) -Susan
jabailo 10/14/2015 | 3:07:43 PM
Re: how do end users really use WiFi? With all the rises in rent at my apartment, for some areas of the country I could do that using AirBnb places that have a low monthly or weekly fee and come in at about the same cost.

And nearly all the AirBnb's have broadband as part of the deal, or I could just bring my laptop to the public library for that matter.

Susan Fourtané 10/14/2015 | 1:03:53 PM
Re: how do end users really use WiFi? Jabailo, I came to the same conclusion with a difference; instead of living in only one place I found it more attractive to move city depending on the weather, or other things. A good WiFi connection is always a must for me. -Susan
jabailo 10/14/2015 | 11:57:45 AM
Re: how do end users really use WiFi? A couple of years ago I came to the conclusion that since I work at home...I could live anywhere.  Well, anywhere that has broadband.   So I started looking at rural areas that had high speed connectivity, and where I could buy houses for a small percentage of what I would pay in a metro area.   While it's there in some areas, it's still not all there, in as many places as I would want!   Right now I live in a close by suburb to Seattle, but it was only a few years ago that useable DSL (ADSL2+) was installed.   Prior to that, seven years ago, I struggled with two different ISPs getting a useable DSL connection and had to give up...I was just too far from the CO.   Fast forward to now and with DSLAMs a 100-300 ft from my apartment I get great speed and no problems.   However, looking at rural cities like Yakima, where houses are cheap, more often than not, the high speed DSL is not there yet, or caps out at 6Mbps.

 
mhhf1ve 10/13/2015 | 6:51:06 PM
Re: how do end users really use WiFi? The story of some guy building or buying a house with a promise of a decent internet connection, only to discover that "decent" meant 1.5Mbps or >$100K for an upgrade, is disturbingly frequent. It's happened several times, and I doubt everyone has learned the lesson: don't trust coverage maps!

Perhaps someday we'll be able to buy some Loon-esque wireless balloon network connectivity... but until then, we're stuck with DSL or expensive cable/fiber installations.

I think even microwave receivers are tricky because they require a line of sight... and they're not cheap, either.
jabailo 10/12/2015 | 7:30:07 PM
Re: how do end users really use WiFi? There was an article making the rounds on Facebook about a guy who built his dreamhome out near the end of the subdivision.

The realtor said there was 40Mpbs for his internet business.

Once he signed the papers and built the house he found out the telco hadn't put a DSLAM anywhere close and the best he could do was 1.5Mbps!

The really whammy is that they were willing to charge him the full $200,000 -- more than his house -- to install it!

Alternatives would be LTE (which I guess also does not exist there) or working with the nearest neighbors to set up a Wifi repeater(s) between his house and theirs.

But short of a DSLAM why can't the telcos do this as an interim measure.  

 
mhhf1ve 10/12/2015 | 4:09:32 PM
how do end users really use WiFi? Besides "home or office" wifi networks, do end users really rely on WiFi as a primary wireless access service? I'd like to see some numbers on that... I'd think most end-users rely on WiFi in public locations only as a backup when LTE is unreliable. 

Sure, there are paid WiFi hotspots services, but is that market saturated? Is there real growth potential for them?
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