2018 will be a transformational year for in-home WiFi. Service providers are bringing faster internet speeds to the home, but far too many consumers can’t actually experience that performance because of outdated WiFi gear. 

In fact, a survey released earlier this year found that more than half of all subscribers have called their service providers to complain about their home Internet or WiFi performance. Most consumers simply don’t distinguish between the internet and WiFi. To them, those two terms mean the same thing, which presents a major challenge, as well as opportunity, for service providers. 

Conventional WiFi relies on a single WiFi Access Point (AP) from a router/gateway to serve the entire home, but that approach is no longer sustainable to support today’s super-connected homes and streaming video consumption habits. Here are 5 key predictions about in-home WiFi as we head into 2018.

Philippe Alcaras
CEO, AirTies
  1.  Expect more ISPs to begin offering Managed WiFi Mesh systems directly to their subscribers, instead of ceding this opportunity to retail CE companies.

    The DVR had a similar history, as it was first offered in retail, but eventually embraced by all service providers.

    By placing multiple Mesh Extenders throughout a home, consumers receive fast and consistent, whole-home Internet coverage. These Mesh systems ensure that consumers’ devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones, video doorbells, smart home appliances, IoT, etc.) continually connect to the best available extender and frequency band (2.4GHz and 5GHz), based on real-time network conditions.

    Most consumers aren’t IT experts, nor should they be. Research has found that 78 percent of respondents would prefer if their ISPs provided them with their in-home WiFi networking gear, versus purchasing it themselves through retail outlets. Savvy service providers across the U.S., Europe and Asia have taken notice.


  2. Service providers will use premium WiFi as a way to differentiate themselves from competitors, and monetize their broadband portfolio in new ways.

    By having a premium WiFi option for subscribers, operators can provide an upgrade incentive to higher-tier broadband subscription plans, generate new monthly subscription revenues, sell devices directly to their consumers, or use a combination of these approaches. Indeed, pioneering service providers are already doing so, and forcing their competitors to respond. Some of these include: Atlantic Broadband, Frontier, Midco, Orange, Singtel, Sky, Swisscom, Vodafone, Waoo, and others.

    In addition, new Managed WiFi solutions provide service providers with unmatched insights into their subscribers’ home networks, in real-time. Customer care representatives, installers, and network engineering teams can use cloud-based monitoring tools and other apps, to troubleshoot, or anticipate potential issues, in order to keep customers happy and ultimately reduce churn.

  3. The set-top box (STB) will become an additional Mesh WiFi hotspot in many homes.

    Since so many people sit in front of their TV while simultaneously using other connected devices, why not turn the STB by the TV into another WiFi hotspot?

    The portability, cost and size of Mesh WiFi chipsets/software has made it practical to embed in STBs, thus reducing the need to add a separate Mesh extender in the home. Expect to see more of them under the TV in 2018.

  4. Service Providers will find ways to upgrade existing gateways/CPE and infrastructure to improve WiFi.
    The challenge many service providers face is that they have already invested heavily in existing CPE that still functions. So, the prospect of replacing a gateway in order to improve home WiFi is a major hurdle for many service providers.

    As such, expect to see service providers adopt more hardware-agnostic Mesh WiFi software solutions that provide portability across chipsets and OEMs. In some cases, existing gateways will be upgraded via a software update that adds WiFi Mesh functionality. This will reduce the number of Mesh devices needed in the home, while improving overall performance and capability. In other cases, service providers will simply opt to shut off the existing Wi-Fi in their gateways, and attach an economical Mesh extender to that gateway in order to provide the upgraded capability to the home.

    In addition, expect to see service providers use different backhaul approaches to connect their Mesh extenders together throughout the home. Many will use WiFi itself as the backhaul mechanism, while others will leverage existing wired connections in the home, such as MoCA or Power Line Connection (PLC), depending on home construction or existing wiring/cabling.

  5. Wi-Fi technology itself will improve dramatically in 2018 with the roll-out of 802.11ax.

    Chipset vendors are in the process of launching new WiFi chipsets that support 802.11ax, the next-generation WiFi standard. This new WiFi will offer dramatic improvements in quality, speed, and efficiency.

    Compared to the current 802.11ac standard, 802.11ax promises to deliver multiple times faster download, upload, coverage, and improved battery life. It is designed to support areas where density of devices and usage is high. Expect to see Mesh WiFi solutions that use 802.11ax hit the market in 2018 that will deliver the ultimate in-home Wi-i experience.

2018 promises to be an exciting year of innovation and differentiation for service providers, and their suppliers, as they strive to meet the evolving needs of super-connected homes.