Wifi is seemingly everywhere, and consumers are becoming more dependent upon it to remain connected. Tablets (iPads), PCs, smart phones and other personal devices (watch out, Dick Tracy here is my shiny new Apple Watch!) are connecting to Wifi services at Starbucks, the airport, hotels, parks or virtually anywhere and everywhere (pun intended) these days! Mobile subscribers, especially kids, have learned that if they don’t want to pay higher data charges on their phones and face annoying condemnations from their parents, they must take advantage of any free Wifi to offload their mobile data, video and voice OTT services to the Internet. Wifi access has essentially become the latest on-ramp to the communications highway.
Aside from just being kind and considerate corporate citizens offering public Wifi access, what else can large cable companies do with their new Wifi network? Service Providers and neo service providers, who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this infrastructure, want to monetize this investment. Data offload from mobile networks, International roaming and Home and Away Broadband (Internet connectivity) subscriptions, as well as various forms of advertising (branding, push, location update-based), are all viable and proven ways of monetizing Wifi networks.
But as SPs are considering and implementing ways to monetize Wifi service offerings, they also need to figure out how to assure connectivity. Having a Wifi network that is difficult to connect to, under-delivers bandwidth or offers mercurial service will annoy and frustrate customers – and ultimately drive them away. There will always be a cheap, “best effort” service; but, as more business traffic and premium offerings emerge riding on the Wifi access, subscribers will be less tolerant of a poor user experience. Tablet, PC and smart phone users will eventually stop trying to connect or use slow or bad service, or may even call customer service for a refund.
Take the case of a large U.S. cable company, which is in the process of upgrading their customers to the latest in cable modem and home gateway technology based upon DOCSIS 3.0 standards. In what must be described as a brilliant business investment, they are building a Trojan Horse, literally house by house, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, market by…well you get it. These new DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems are bifurcated to deliver private Wifi networks to homes, complete with ample encryption security, which simultaneously offer public, open Wifi access.
Cable companies have indeed looked strategically at this investment and are not rolling out an untested product. There are approximately 30 procedures involving messaging with multiple protocols for a single user to gain access to Wifi service! Errors or latency in any one of these steps will result in problems connecting or complete denial of access to the Wifi network.
Having Wifi anywhere and anytime sounds great, but if the service is not always on and working, it is only a promise, not a reality!