The OEM alternative: How ISPs can deliver top-quality whole home Wi-Fi
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are under greater pressure than ever before to deliver truly outstanding service. Not only are households running more and more connected devices and high-bandwidth applications, but the rapid development of mobile devices and impending 5G era outside of the home means that consumer expectations for high-speed and reliable connectivity have never been higher, says Sebastian Richter, director Product Management Operator Solutions at Devolo.
The government estimated that every household in the UK owned at least 10 connected devices last year, and predicts the figure will rise to 15 by next year. Homes are getting smarter – which means they are also getting more demanding of their ISPs. Meanwhile, high-definition video streaming, virtual and augmented reality applications and high-performance online gaming are all high on the list of today’s most in-demand home features.
To meet these demands and ensure the same quality Wi-Fi performance throughout consumers’ homes, ISPs are turning to technical solutions. Technological innovations such as mesh networking dominate much of the discussion, and yet what every ISP, large or small, ultimately needs is very simple: a pragmatic, yet powerful solution to enable whole-home Wi-Fi with a good price-performance ratio.
One size does not fit all
For large ISPs, the obvious solution is to turn to an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to tailor-make a product for them. Own-brand Wi-Fi extenders and intelligent performance boosters are now par for the course on the big players’ online stores. These pieces of kit are mass-produced and sold under the brand name of the ISP in question – and they tick all the right boxes for large organisations. But what about the needs of smaller ISPs and telecommunications providers?
Smaller providers still need to be able to provide a state-of-the-art and cost-effective solution for their customers in order to ensure top-quality Wi-Fi amidst ever-greater demands, but they don’t necessarily have the resources to invest with an OEM.
Investment costs and time to market are simply too great. And the cost and complexity doesn’t end for small organisations with the rollout of a set of devices either. Any time a security vulnerability is identified or the devices require patching or upgrading, this is a major undertaking for a small ISP or telecommunications provider.
The solution: adapt proven retail products and take a managed services approach
A powerful alternative for such providers is to look for retail-ready equipment which has already been proven in the market, and then to work with the manufacturer to develop tailored firmware. This allows the equipment to incorporate the appropriate configurations and features for the ISP or telecommunications provider as soon as they are put into operation at the customer’s premise, and means that the consumer can ‘plug and play’ in much the same way as they do with own-label equipment from bigger providers.
Then, once the equipment is deployed, the benefits can be compounded by taking a managed services approach to security patches and firmware upgrades. For smaller carriers, it can be a challenge to provide their customers’ end devices with regular updates or to make targeted adjustments to the firmware – and yet this is crucial in order to keep up a high service-level.
For example, if a security vulnerability occurs, carriers have to react quickly in applying patches. Moreover, firmware upgrades e.g. of Mesh or Smart Wi-Fi features help to improve the user experience. These updates as well as continuously providing status information on the devices to the ISP can be taken over by a partner as part of a managed services model – a model, of course, which is seeing increasing traction across many segments of the technology industry.
There are several major advantages of this approach. First, it alleviates the cost and time to market issues associated with asking an OEM to develop a product specifically for the provider. Companies can quickly offer their customers solutions which are tailored for the ever-growing demands of home networking in the 21st century, customers can set up their systems more quickly and easily, and their products always remain secure and state-of-the-art. Moreover, if the ISP also requests its service partner to take care of the return and refurbishment of the devices, they can save additional costs, and resources are spared.
Retail-ready products with bespoke firmware installed automatically and a managed services approach to looking after firmware and device status offers even the smallest ISPs the opportunity to deliver whole-home Wi-Fi coverage with all the smart features consumers are coming to expect – in a cost and resource-effective way.
The author is Sebastian Richter, director product management operator solutions, Devolo