The transition from best-effort to carrier-grade Wi-Fi is not optional
Nowadays it’s no secret to operators that deploying community Wi-Fi networks can bring multiple benefits, including cost savings through offload and Wi-Fi-first strategies alongside a reduction in churn as a result of delivering value-added Wi-Fi-based services.
However, until now operators have struggled to leverage these deployments to their full potential because they lack tools capable of managing network performance and quality of experience (QoE). As Alex Puregger, CEO of Fon says, they have only been able to offer a best-effort connectivity experience to customers.
In a recent report, Juniper Research alerted readers to the fact that operators’ global revenue is falling. In fact, the analysts predicted that annual revenues in voice and data services could fall by up to US$50 billion (€43.8 billion). In the UK, according to a TM Forum Quick Insight report, postpaid churn currently ranges from 5% to 32% per year, having a significant impact on the business.
Taking these figures into consideration, as well as the maturity of the market, there is no doubt in my mind that operators must address this situation if they intend to remain competitive in the market and increase or even maintain their customer base.
What do carrier-grade Wi-Fi networks offer that best-effort networks don’t?
Best-effort Wi-Fi networks offer an inconsistent user experience, more frequently determined by the smartphone’s operating system than by the operator. In fact, operators tend to lack real-time visibility of what’s happening on their networks. In addition, these networks are totally isolated from cellular ones and consequently service providers are not able to apply the same policies to their clients across networks nor offer the same services or management capabilities.
The transition from best-effort to carrier-grade Wi-Fi networks would remove most of these barriers that operators are facing. Not only because they would gain performance visibility from both a user and network perspective, but also because they would gain control over the quality of experience they are offering to their customers on Wi-Fi networks.
As a result, they would be able to implement mobile data offloading strategies without jeopardising customer experience. In fact, subscribers would benefit from such a seamless experience and wouldn’t even be aware of moving between networks.
How can operators achieve carrier-grade Wi-Fi?
There are three essential steps in order to upgrade from best-effort to carrier-grade deployments:
- Ensure customers always connect to the best available network, whether it is Wi-Fi or cellular. And to achieve this, operators need to invest in a solution capable of both analysing network performance in real time and taking into account historical data and connecting customers to the best performing network based on this information. Therefore, they avoid customer frustration caused by a poor-quality connection.
- Optimise Wi-Fi network performance. A key requirement of offering a consistent quality of experience is to have the necessary control over the performance of Wi-Fi networks. Today there are solutions in the market that allow operators to control and improve network performance and also to mitigate issues when required.
- Guarantee a consistent service regardless of access technology. Users demand a good service at all times, but they are not interested in the technology behind it. Service providers need to have the same visibility and management capabilities over users whether their access is via Wi-Fi or cellular.
According to UK regulator Ofcom’s predictions, by 2025 UK customers will be consuming an average of 90Gb every month and operators are already competing in an increasingly aggressive manner with data packages. In this context, I’m sure that operators must pursue strategies such as Wi-Fi offload or Wi-Fi-first in order to face this connectivity demand cost effectively while maintaining customer satisfaction. Moving in this direction and adopting carrier-grade solutions is the only way the transition towards a superior Wi-Fi will be possible.
The author is Alex Puregger, CEO of Fon.