Remember when speed was the ultimate selling point for Communication Service Providers (CSPs)?
The way that CSPs talk about speed is in terms of bandwidth — describing the theoretical maximum throughput rate that can be achieved. The key word here is theoretical. Companies like Xfinity already boast bandwidth of up to 3,000Mbps, which they say is 40x faster than average, and parent company Comcast has announced 10Gbps for 10 million homes.
It would appear that the sky’s the limit… but does it matter? CSPs may need to ask themselves what this game of one upmanship really means in practice.
What Does High Bandwidth Mean for the End User?
In an ideal world, where the promised throughput rate can be achieved, there are certain activities where higher speeds will make all the difference. In this category is live online gaming, video streaming, and video calls. However, even a fraction of this bandwidth would also more than suffice. Research has shown that 1,000Mbps would satisfy 20 users streaming 4K movies on Netflix under the same roof, 600 simultaneous Zoom conferences, 3,300 music aficionados bopping along to Spotify, or 200 HD videos watched to completion on YouTube. Of course, these are theoretical figures that don’t take into account other aspects of the home service, but they are a good indication of how far 1G can go. And if that’s 1G, then who needs 100G, 25G or even 10G?
In reality, it’s not the bandwidth alone that is making a difference to the end-users’ quality of experience. There is latency and latency variation, known as jitter, there is packet loss, there could be issues with the WiFi such as link congestion, and even broader issues such as resource availability challenges with the last mile network.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Today’s networks and connected homes are complex, and so much more can go wrong behind the scenes.
These issues all impede on quality of experience (QoE), and have little or nothing to do with how many zeros an ISP can achieve in terms of bandwidth.
Shifting Focus from Bandwidth to Broadband Service Reliability and QoE
The simple fact is that even with the fastest connections on the market, subscribers experience problems with their internet quality of experience.
60% of subscribers would rather have a consistently reliable home internet experience than a faster one. And in the US, despite internet speeds rising 20% in 2022 year on year, 80% say their internet connection has stopped them from getting their work done at home. Reliability with few service interruptions was ranked the #1 aspect of broadband connectivity in 2021. Speed isn’t everything. And actually, if your experience is poor, speed means nothing.
It’s time for CSPs to stop looking at bandwidth in a silo, and start looking at ensuring a high QoE score across the home.
How to Improve Quality of Experience as a CSP
By monitoring the entire home broadband service, and identifying bottlenecks wherever they occur, CSPs can start to get a picture of what’s happening across the whole service delivery chain, from server and WAN, to last mile and the network within the home. CSPs can begin to understand other metrics that will impact QoE, for example packet loss, latency and RSSI. When this is done, and they can accurately visualize the context of what subscribers are actually consuming, ie: whether they are gaming, streaming, web conferencing etc, and via which applications and devices, they can augment their intelligence with the ideal connectivity needs for each home.
By viewing the home network performance in aggregate, and their subscribers’ individual consumption patterns and behaviors, CSPs can then take targeted measures to improve quality of experience, and avoid any drops in reliability — ie: what subscribers really care about.
Here are just a few use cases of how it works in practice:
- Root-cause analysis: Use Artificial Intelligence to zero-in on where and why a problem is occurring, and how the issue is impacting user experience. As a CSP, you can create alert signatures for events that only flag attention in the context of the services being consumed. For example, if a WiFi channel is choked, and the negative impact of WiFi link saturation is being experienced, band steering can auto-move one or more devices.
- Auto-resolution: Proactively side-step problems from becoming persistent and impactful to the end-user by auto-resolving issues as soon as they occur. Consider restarting a device at the right time to force an update, or recommending a resolution like a WiFi extender to a subscriber at the moment of frustration. Bonus: You’re taking a load off from technical support, freeing them up for high priority tasks elsewhere.
- Traffic prioritization: Work with subscribers to show them that you can provide autonomy and control over their internet experience. Prioritize the applications that they need most, (such as Zoom conferencing for working from home more than watching @MrBeast on YouTube) and a CSP can guarantee a better service quality where it really makes an impact.
Rather than only offering subscribers a higher number when discussing theoretical bandwidth speeds, today’s service providers need to be able to augment this conversation with service reliability factors. Being able to offer the kind of measures that keep QoE scores in the green proves you’re a service provider focused on reliability and 5* experience, as well as speed.
A Fast Package is Just Step One for Network Quality and Customer Care
Any CSP that says they can avoid internet experience problems altogether is probably not looking at the full picture. However, it is possible for CSPs to put measures in place to deal with QoE problems quickly, and even proactively. To keep subscribers satisfied — reliability is the thing, and this means ensuring a continuously enjoyable internet experience, not just a theoretical bandwidth stamp.
Icing on the cake? By boosting quality of experience across the home, you’ll experience less reliance on customer support teams, higher subscriber loyalty, more visibility for engineering and technical stakeholders, and smarter data-driven decision making to guarantee your roadmap is making an impact.
Let your competition focus on bandwidth, while you steal the competitive edge with Quality of Experience.