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WiFi management as a service: an XaaS whose time has come?

wifi symbol

via Flickr © Christiaan008 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • ISPs could be making billions with managed WiFi
  • Research shows that up to 20% customers are interested

It used to be that indoor radio specialists often cited WiFi’s lack of manageability as the main reason users needed indoor cellular or, at the very least, some sort of hybrid approach involving both LTE and WiFi. I’ve been in a presentation on indoor services and DAS (distributed antenna systems) where WiFi was simply not mentioned, not even to give it a kicking (it got the kicking in the one-on-ones after the presentation).

Now at least one indoor radio specialist, XCellAir, appears to be on the turn, at least when it comes to the home market. Apparently WiFi can be ‘managed’ too. As well as offering a range of hybrid WiFi/LTE/LAA solutions for the premises it is putting its weight behind a ‘managed WiFi’ concept for the home which could be provided by either telcos and third parties. In theory such a service might provide the best of both worlds: the device ubiquity of WiFi together with something approaching the reliability of a managed service..  that’s If it can do what it says on its tin.

According to XCellAir, which has just produced some research on the subject, the demand is there.  It has surveyed 1,000 consumers in both the US and UK to reveal that an average of  15% of consumers would willingly pay $34 per year for their Wi-Fi service to be managed by their service provider or a third party. It claims this represents a $6.7 billion missed opportunity for service providers globally.

Long experience has taught me to be wary of ‘missed opportunities' and their startling numbers, and the 15 per cent tally doesn’t seem particularly astounding (always reverse those stats to get a feel for them the other way about - in this case 85 per cent of consumers are presumably not interested in managed WiFi).

Revenue restored

XcellAir says that the global $6.7 billion opportunity “comes from revenue lost from consumers willing to pay for managed Wi-Fi services, as well as OPEX savings from a reduction in helpline calls and engineer visits. Using industry forecasts for installed Wi-Fi and the number of consumers willing to pay for managed Wi-Fi services as revealed in the survey, XCellAir calculates that service providers could miss out on $3.3 billion in additional revenue in 2018. OPEX savings from managed services, based on the average cost of customer helpline calls and truck rolls to configure or repair access points, could reach as much as $3.4 billion.”

Here are the  main research takeaways:

  • 50% of consumers blame their internet service provider for problems with their Wi-Fi, regardless of who provided their router.
  • Despite 18% of consumers blaming their Wi-Fi equipment when service falters, as many as 39% of consumers would still call their ISP to assist with troubleshooting faults or problems.
  • The survey also revealed that as many as 89% of consumers have completely unmanaged Wi-Fi, yet there is notable appetite for managed and paid-for services from their ISP or other third party:
  • 80% of consumers surveyed experienced at least some issues with their Wi-Fi, with almost a third (31%) experiencing occasional or frequent Wifi problems.
  • As many as 19% of users in the US, and 10% in the UK, are willing to pay their service provider or a third party technical services firm, such as Geek Squad or Knowhow, to manage their Wi-Fi for them.
  • The mean fee per month that consumers are willing to pay for managed Wi-Fi in the US was nearly $4 per month, with 6% willing to pay as much as $15 or more. In the UK, the mean fee was £1.49, with 6% willing to pay up to £4 per month.

This means, according to XCellAir, that ISPs have a golden chance to capture Wi-Fi management as a service for their customers from which they stand to benefit financially, as well as in goodwill towards their brand.

The big unknown, of course, is how well such services will work out in the field, not in comparison to ‘old’ unmanaged WiFi hubs, but in comparison to new generation smart WiFi hubs which can increasingly look after themselves.

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