Better infrastructure, same problem: why upgrading broadband infrastructure isn’t the only answer

4 Mins read
This article originally appeared in Total Telecom

AT&T recently disclosed its investment of between $10 and $15 billion in fiber cable infrastructure. Nokia and Eurofiber Group signed an agreement at the end of the year to expand on the current 60,000 km of Eurofiber fiber infrastructure. More global CSPs are expected to follow.

But is the investment in this new broadband infrastructure worth it?

The Main Types of Broadband Infrastructure

The answer is: It depends. But to explain how we arrived at this answer in detail, let’s first take a step back and explain the many different types of broadband infrastructure available, each with multiple uses and speeds of data transmission:

  • DSL – Digital subscriber lines (DSL) transmit data over copper wires, using either asymmetric subscriber lines (ADSL) or symmetric subscriber lines (SDSL). ADSL users receive a lot of data but don’t need to send it (e.g., users streaming movies or playing video games); SDL users receive and send a lot of data.
  • Fiber – Fiber optic cables convert electric signals into light, which moves much faster than DSL.
  • Cable modem – Uses the same cables that transmit data to your television.
  • Wireless – Since it transmits data over radio signals, wireless broadband is particularly useful for delivering service to remote locations. Wireless can be mobile or fixed. Fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology is the latest standard in cellular technology, reaching speeds as high as 20 gigabits per second (Gbps).
  • Satellite – Uses satellites orbiting the earth to transmit data.

Since fiber offers the fastest connection, many ISPs and CSPs are transitioning to fiber broadband, hoping this will satisfy their subscribers’ needs for fast and stable home connectivity.

Fiber Broadband Infrastructure Doesn’t Eliminate Network Issues

But even with the rapid adoption of fiber broadband around the globe, common internet problems such as weak signals, physical connectivity issues, and slow performance persist.

Let’s explore some of the most common reasons for these issues:

  • Latency. Caused by internet network hardware, the server’s location and the routers between it and the end-device, almost everything related to a user’s internet experience can be impacted by latency. Increased latency can lead to significantly slower connectivity, making it particularly crucial for online-gaming and conferencing applications.
  • Signal interference. Probably the top reason for slow home connectivity. WiFi signals weaken as they travel through large metal appliances, thick walls, or if there are multiple devices with overlapping signals to receive the WiFi.
  • Bandwidth contention. When ISPs share fiber cables between customers, it is known as contention. A 5:1 contention means that five users share one fiber cable. The more users, the more likely the connectivity is slower during peak hours.
  • Incompatible routers and slow devices. Older routers can’t handle the fast connectivity rates that fiber delivers. Slow devices such as phones or computers also slow data transfer, causing poor connections.

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CSPs Invest Heavily in Infrastructure with Little to No Return

CSPs invest a lot to upgrade and maintain their fiber infrastructure and deliver their customers the best possible experience. In the United States, it can cost anywhere from $700 to $6,000 to construct a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network per household passed, depending on whether the household is in a rural or urban area.

How is it that despite the many infrastructure improvements, customers are still stuck with slow internet or a generally poor customer experience, leaving CSPs with high operational costs and unsatisfied customers?

Gain Visibility Within the Home and Beyond

These subscriber issues continue because CSPs don’t have the appropriate tools to understand what might be impeding on their subscribers’ Quality of Experience, starting with the real last mile, the subscribers’ home Wi-Fi. They don’t know what is happening inside the subscribers’ connected homes (CPE, LAN, devices) or beyond the homes (server, WAN) that might be causing any service degradation. With no visibility comes no efficient way of resolving problems, which equals being blindfolded.

An alternative for CSPs to improve their customer care and subscribers’ experience is by adding network intelligence and CX management platforms to their portfolio. They can detect where problems are occurring, why they occur, and how they affect the user experience, and deliver a qualitative metric that measures the subscriber’s experience in real-time (e.g., a Quality of Experience score).

So how do they work?
By deploying technology such as app and device identification, CSPs can identify all connected devices and consumed apps within a home, combining it with an intricate knowledge of the entire network, including each of its network conditions and how they affect every individual session.

As a result, CSPs gain a better understanding of:

  • the network performance along the entire service-delivery chain (cloud, WAN, router, LAN, device)
  • the subscriber’s Quality of Experience (QoE)
  • where problems originate, why they occur, and how these problems affect the user experience
  • how to resolve these issues quickly and potentially even without subscribers noticing

Since it can now identify the root cause of problems and their origins, (e.g., device, router, WiFi, cable, server, etc,) the CSP no longer wastes time and money on other repairs. This includes reducing unnecessary truck rolls and router replacements, shortening support calls, and helping subscribers resolve problems faster.

Another bonus for this technology is that it helps CSPs resolve problems autonomously, reducing the need for technicians or customer care altogether.

Placing Your Bet on Proactive Customer Care

CSPs must make wise investments and not put all their eggs into the broadband infrastructure upgrade basket. They must monitor their network performance, identify when and why something went wrong, and respond quickly without disrupting the subscriber’s experience. Not only can advanced data analytics platforms help resolve these issues cost-effectively, but they can do it while improving subscribers’ Quality of Experience at the same time.

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