Fast Broadband Must Also Be Good Broadband

Now that broadband providers are shifting their networks into higher gear, will broadband customers enjoy an improved user experience as well?

They should, at least in theory. Higher data speeds to the home or business will certainly set the stage for broadband providers to deliver an improved user experience to their subscribers.

But that doesn't mean that it will necessarily happen. Higher data speeds will not do the trick alone. Other critical factors could easily get in the way, such as WiFi dead spots in the customer premise, dropped Internet connections, intermittent service, weak links and traffic bottlenecks and slowdowns.

"The user's experience doesn't necessarily get better just because the speed gets faster," Matt Schmitt, VP of Lab Services at CableLabs , noted earlier this month at the National Cable Television Cooperative Inc. (NCTC) 's Winter Educational Conference in Phoenix. He said that's why CableLabs added a technique called Active Queue Management (AQM) to its new DOCSIS 3.1 spec, which enables multi-gigabit speeds over cable's hybrid fiber/coaxial (HFC) networks.

So, in a world where 1 Gbit/s and faster data download speeds will soon become the norm, cable operators, telcos, fiber providers and other ultra broadband players need to find other ways to compete and stand out from the crowd. Specifically, just as in the hotly contested video market, ultra broadband providers must focus on improving the user experience to keep their customers fat and happy and coming back for more.

What kinds of steps can service providers take to improve the ultra broadband customers' experiences? It could be one or two big things, such as offering great WiFi service, fast, seamless home or work networking connections or a highly attractive OTT video skinny bundle as an add-on. Or it could be a collection of smaller but still key things, such as simple, quick authentication of IP-enabled devices, solid, consistent service and intuitive self-service tools on the provider's web portal.

Of course, ultra broadband providers could also enhance their customers' experiences by charging them less for the new gigabit speeds. Or providers could refrain from imposing data caps on their subscribers or charging them for going over certain usage limits. But that's a story for another day.

The critical takeaway is that ultra broadband providers, just like video providers before them, must think about more than just delivering great content or speedy service to their customers. They must consider improving the overall user experience as well. Otherwise, they may find themselves with fewer customers having an experience with them.

This blog is sponsored by Huawei.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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