Are MSOs Ready for Wi-Fi’s Challenges? -- Open Mic
The cable industry is excited about Wi-Fi as a new revenue frontier, and justifiably so. The Wireless Broadband Alliance has predicted that next Generation Hotspot (NGH) technology will account for $150 billion in operator revenue by 2018.
MSOs are starting to move quickly. In the U.S., members of the cable industry’s Wi-Fi consortium were able to offer their customers roaming Wi-Fi access to more than 200,000 hotspots by the end of 2013: doubling the output of 2012, according to research by SNL Kagan.
In addition to expanding their Wi-Fi footprint, which MSOs hope will increase the appeal and value of their highspeed data (HSD) subscriptions, cable operators are upgrading Wi-Fi technologies.
One example is Comcast’s dual-use Wi-Fi home gateway, which enables indoor residential hotspots to support outdoor access via authentication.
And with the next generation of Wi-Fi (802.11ac), which will significantly increase broadband up to one gigabit per second, multiple users will be allowed to stream HD videos at the same time.
Cable operators believe that their expanded footprint, combined with these technological advances, will help them better control the data experience of their customers and maximize their return on investment (ROI), while providing the best quality of service (QoS).
This means a more mobile and seamless experience, which cannot be achieved without optimized and intelligent networks that offer seamless handovers, session continuity, intelligent offload and full control of the customer data experience.
Not So Fast…
Despite the tremendous potential for the cable industry, capitalizing on the various opportunities that Wi-Fi presents won’t be easy. MSOs are going to have to overcome some daunting challenges. They are looking to improve the user experience by increasing capacity, data rates and coverage, but the high complexity and sheer volume of tasks required to achieve these objectives means cable operators could struggle to meet their time, cost and quality targets.
Rapid expansion/upgrades for MSOs’ Wi-Fi networks and partnering with mobile service providers (small cell backhaul) will require more automation. Process automation significantly cuts costs and reduces network design time.
Additionally, providing a quality, seamless Wi-Fi experience and new monetization models will require sophisticated policy/network control.
If MSOs don’t extend the power of policy into Wi-Fi, they won’t be able to offer dynamic, policy-enabled services for monetizing Wi-Fi, which will render monetization of premium Wi-Fi services with differentiated QoS a distant goal.
Spiraling network operating costs and increased difficulty in managing a complex mix of technologies are also challenges with which MSOs are struggling to cope.
Network optimization offers a way forward, but is too often divorced from actual customer revenue and business value.
Self-optimizing Wi-Fi networks offer a unique approach that links the network to the business in order to maximize existing network resources and deliver effective customer experience improvements.
Experiencing Wi-Fi Success
Wi-Fi is a great opportunity for MSOs to provide a better customer experience and generate more revenues. In order to capitalize on the Wi-Fi opportunity, MSOs need to ensure their operational and business support systems are up to the challenge.
Specifically, MSOs must be able to offer their customers easy authentication, seamless handovers and session continuity, and a controlled customer data experience.
They can do so by finding a vendor who can leverage its expertise in OSS, BSS and policy control to offer device-level intelligence and seamless connectivity in order to deliver dynamic Wi-Fi services.