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2 September 2021

Harsh reality of pandemic WiFi woes revealed for operators 

Faultline has relished reporting on the rapid and irreversible transformations experienced across the broadband and WiFi marketplaces over the past 18 months, and now we have some hard figures to objectify these observations, courtesy of Turkish mesh WiFi expert Airties.

For operators, learning that a whopping 27% of consumers across the US, UK and Germany received home visits from technicians during the pandemic is a shocking revelation. Over a quarter of customer complaints resulting in truck roll – from 63% who called to complain about WiFi issues – is an order of magnitude too high and is an area in which service providers reading these results will be investing heavily in.

The financial rewards from reduced truck roll can be great, and companion applications are one of the easiest ways to achieve that. Only 35% of respondents reported already having a companion app, underscoring a huge untapped opportunity to reduce truck roll. Of those not using a companion app, interest is high at 63% for those wanting assistance with identifying and fixing WiFi issues without needing to contact their operator.

Demand is highest for app functionality that can troubleshoot WiFi issues, followed by a feature that shows WiFi performance. Prioritization of devices and control of access to internet are tied in third place as companion app motivators.

The regional differences here are surprising, with 52% of consumers in the US already using a companion app to troubleshoot WiFi issues, while only 29% of UK respondents answered the same, and just 25% in Germany. On the contrary, disinterest in such apps is highest in Germany at 26%, compared with 15% in the UK, and 11% in the US.

The brutal reality of patchy WiFi is that 49% considered switching broadband providers due to WiFi issues during the pandemic, from the Airties-sponsored survey of 1,525 consumers conducted in Q2 2021. Although, interestingly, the survey results do not include how many of those that considered defecting actually did switch providers.

So, there we have it – WiFi issues and churn go hand-in-hand. But you already knew that.

This is not a new trend, but an exacerbation of an existing deep-lying problem in home networks that Airties wants to emphasize and capitalize on. Part of the problem in recent time has been the advent of DIY home offices, with 65% of people forced to create home working environments in areas such as garages, attics, and patios. As such, a majority of 56% reported experiencing poor WiFi connectivity in some parts of the home.

While broadband operators the world over, particularly the tier 1 US giants, have patted themselves on the back for a job well done in maintaining high quality of service on fixed line networks during times of peak pandemic traffic, the story is not so rosy when making the last hop over WiFi. Daily issues plagued 55% of respondents, while 58% admitted experiencing more home WiFi problems before the pandemic.

This brings us to more positive news for operators, as 58% of consumers would be keen to upgrade to a faster internet tier with guarantees of faster and more consistent WiFi in every room of the home. Of these, 70% would pay at least $5 a month more for the privilege, while 86% would expect a premium internet package to come with a whole-home WiFi coverage guarantee.

With that in mind, consumers want their hands held and their hardware provided, with 80% preferring WiFi networking gear to come part and parcel with their broadband packages, rather than having to purchase hardware themselves at retail. We assume Airties only means routers and APs here.

The survey also alludes to how home networks have had to behave like enterprise networks, finding that 39% of respondents were reimbursed by employers for WiFi equipment purchased when working from home. More startlingly, 32% have had their broadband subscriptions subsidized by employers during the working from home period.

Only 10% said they were not using more home WiFi today compared to pre-pandemic times, while usage has grown most in the US with 48% using WiFi for an additional 7 to 10 hours each day, compared to 36% of those in the UK and 21% in Germany.

Looking at separate data from the Airties Cloud, which manages over 646 million actively connected devices, it found that 16% of devices are now on WiFi 6, while the majority are still on WiFi 5 (44%) and WiFi 4 (39%), with just 1% of devices running legacy WiFi generations.