Pros vs. Cons: Does your Wi-Fi certification and performance monitoring stack up?

Pros vs. Cons: does your Wi-Fi certification and performance monitoring stack up?

There are more Wi-Fi stats than I can keep track of.

One report uncovers that 43 per cent of households polled ‘claimed poor Wi-Fi connectivity restricts their life at home’ while another cites a dramatic increase in devices supported by a single in-home Wi-Fi connection. Hint: it’s an increase from 12 to 50 devices over an eight-year period.

I’m willing to bet that you don’t need my stats to feel the strain.

These stats add up to a basic truth: demands on Wi-Fi and expectations have outrun the technology and processes needed to deliver an in-home Wi-Fi experience that meets customer expectations.

ISPs already know they need Wi-Fi certification and performance monitoring.

Service providers I’ve spoken with recognize the need for Wi-Fi certification and performance monitoring. Arguably, so do their customers based on the stats (which I won’t quote) that demonstrate an increase in consumer-grade Wi-Fi mesh, hardware, and testing app downloads.

“Whole-home connectivity presents both a challenge and an opportunity to service providers. It is a clear pain point for the customer but it is technically difficult to solve and risks creating a huge support challenge,” explains Adrian Pennington in Digital TV Europe.

Without diving into the complexities of delivering fast, reliable and differentiated Wi-Fi, suffice to say that ISPs need a certification and performance monitoring solution that satisfies a robust set of functional requirements.

But which Wi-Fi certification and performance monitoring solution?

The Pros and Cons:

 Many field technicians already use the free tools such as Wi-Fi analyzers and speed-tests to assist with installation and trouble-shooting. These tools are good and provide a general snapshot in time of the Wi-Fi environment showing basic signal strength and coverage, but operators need to objectively verify their install or repair against their defined quality standards.

It feels like most solutions ask operators to trade-off on cost versus complexity and integrations. Here’s my comparison of the most common solutions used for in-home Wi-Fi:

Free Wi-Fi speed test apps:

Pros

Cons

  • Easy to install
  • Low cost or free
  • Channel recommendations, view of Wi-Fi networks, signal strength over time graph

 

 

 

 

 

  • No record keeping of testing results, and data collected is not owned
  • Not tailored to field technician use cases
  • Not tailored toward customer education
  • Cannot control or monitor compliance
  • Cannot implement quality control standards
  • No support
  • Lacks workflows
  • Made by third-party suppliers that lack insight into ISP requirements
  • No reporting capabilities

Laptop-based Wi-Fi Software:

Pros

Cons

  • More screen space and computing power than mobile devices or hardware test sets
  • Often a more standardized platform than mobile devices for software versions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Laptops in the field are bulky, whereas mobile devices are an increasingly preferred option by operators.
  • Heat mapping with an accurate home plan takes excessive time on-site, and can often be accomplished more effectively with a room by room breakdown of coverage
  • No carrier- specific threshold for quality standards
  • No OSS/BSS integration
  • No reporting
  • Larger screen size delivers more information, but also more clutter and less focus

Hardware-based Wi-Fi Test Devices:

Pros

Cons

  • Techs like them. They have a high value factor because they know they are expensive and specialized tools sought after by experienced techs
  • Additional hardware capability for scanning entire Wi-Fi radio spectrum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Comparatively expensive to purchase ($2-15k) depending on model and functionality
  • Frequent changes in Wi-Fi result in hardware that is quickly outdated
  • Difficult to maintain as the proprietary hardware and software isn’t easy to update
  • Often lack integration capability or ability to track compliance and test results
  • Lacks workflows
  • Interfaces are very technical and overwhelming
  • Hardware vendors lack experience integrating into OSS/BSS
  • Cost of investment often means that only select technicians are outfitted, limiting an operator’s ability to have a fully-integrated solution

Wi-Fi Hardware Extenders and Wi-Fi Mesh:

Pros

Cons

  • Provide additional Wi-Fi capability, not just testing and optimizing existing equipment
  • Some have software to help with optimal placement and channel selection which is enticing to buyers and users
  • Often viewed as a solution to “fix our problems”

 

 

 

  • Requires additional hardware that can be lost, broken or rendered out of date
  • Extenders cut speeds roughly in half and are often not required if access point placement is correct. (Some devices do alleviate speed issues by using a faster third band to communicate backhaul.)
  • More hardware in the home means more opportunities for failure, more cost to maintain/upgrade and added difficulty troubleshooting when something goes wrong

 

Notes regarding Wi-Fi Extenders and Wi-Fi Mesh
These solutions shouldn’t be a replacement for Wi-Fi certification and performance monitoring but rather a complimentary service offering. A solid Wi-Fi certification and performance monitoring solution will assist with justification of this add-on service, as well as optimize placement and channel selection.

Five things to look for in Wi-Fi certification and performance monitoring:

  1. Guided workflow for field technicians, ideally on a mobile-based app

  2. Proactive network maintenance

  3. Troubleshooting through remote monitoring, with alerts and ad-hoc analysis

  4. Measure of signal strength, speed and interference (structural, Wi-Fi & non Wi-Fi)

  5. Network visibility of the entire in-home Wi-Fi environment

To maximize a service providers’ hardware investment, we recommend giving front line technicians a tool to guide optimal access point placement, ensuring ‘first time right’ installations. For instance, our signature mobile application allows the field team to certify speeds, signal and interference levels before leaving the home.

Great Wi-Fi service assurance goes beyond installation by monitoring quality across all CPE vendors, alerting when quality of experience is impacted and advising the care team on how best to resolve the problem. A fully integrated end-to-end solution will also include assurance analytics to measure and verify performance and offer actionable insights.

Are you using an enterprise-grade Wi-Fi certification and performance monitoring solution that measures up?

Alain Michelet
Sales Engineer, Mariner