As we are all hunkering down at home, our internet usage is skyrocketing. More video conferencing for working adults, that’s for sure. Online learning for the kids stuck at home. And let’s be honest: lots more gaming, movie-watching and YouTube.
Our latest internet binges are crashing gaming services, movie channels, Zoom sessions, you name it. In the era of Corona, we are setting new internet usage records, putting more stress on the network, over the last mile and even within our increasingly digital homes. This Corona-caused surge in internet usage means more competition for limited WiFi capacity. There is only so much bandwidth available and it’s quickly devoured by 4K movie streaming, endless Mindcraft, video conferencing, and all the other connected things we are doing.
WiFi coverage is another problem. Many of us in isolation are trying to access the home Router from a distant bedroom or basement where we never tried before. We are finding that the signal doesn’t carry into our isolation chambers. Suddenly, we are looking for mesh networks, repeaters, boosters, extenders, and high-grade antennas that will give us ample WiFi coverage in the rooms where we now work and play.
A lot of factors can disturb our Quality of Experience (QoE) and here’s why.
The Long and Winding Service Delivery Chain
When you listen to Spotify, the music will have traveled across a very long service delivery chain to get to your ears. The music that you select originates in a Spotify server somewhere in the cloud. From there, it travels along the World Wide Web until it gets to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP then forwards the music to your home via a fiber, co-axial or twisted-pair cable connected to your in-home router, which then puts the music signal into the air via WiFi and, finally, to your speakers (device).
That’s quite a lengthy pathway. Any sort of glitch along the way can interfere with the Quality of Experience—the music might skip or be difficult to hear. Same for movies, games and the other connected services you want.
Who is Responsible?
Three of the links in the chain—Server, WAN (internet) and Device—are beyond the realm of responsibility for the ISP.
1. The Service Cloud (Server)
The origin of much of the content that you consume is in a service cloud, depicted by “Server” at the left in the image above.
The particular Netflix server that is providing you with your movie might be suffering performance problems that you experience as short, irritating halts in the picture or sound. And thanks to Corona virus, demand for Netflix movies is so great that buffering is happening more than ever.
Gamers are suffering, too. Games also traverse the long service delivery chain. Microsoft Xbox Live has revealed that its gaming servers have crashed more than once due to heavy usage by so many people gaming from home.
2. Wide Area Network (WAN)
Your cloud service—movies, music, games, etc.—sends its content to you across the World Wide Web (depicted in our diagram as WAN or, in short, the internet).
At peak demand times, known as internet rush hour, internet service to certain countries or regions within countries might be oversubscribed. This condition will slow down your movie or video conference.
Within the home, your connected devices deliver the services to you. Devices can fail or suffer connection problems, like when wireless speakers are suddenly unable to deliver sound or the smart TV becomes unresponsive.
Where the ISP Comes In
Routers bring the service into your home and put it in the air (WiFi) for your wireless devices to use. The In-Home Network (WiFi) provided by your Router are the two components of the service delivery chain that are the responsibility of your ISP.
Effects on ISP Customer Care
If you think that users at home are suffering from overuse of the internet, take a look at ISP customer care departments. They are being inundated with a ceaseless flurry of technical support calls asking, Why is Netflix so slow? Why does my Zoom session cut in and out? Who can play League of Legends with all this lag?
Users want answers and they want them yesterday. They expect ISP customer care to know all about what’s going on in the home with all the devices and services and, especially, to resolve every problem. But only when the source of a problem is in the realm of responsibility of the ISP—routers and WIFI—can ISP customer care really help you.
Most users call their ISP customer care whenever they encounter a problem. Customer service reps (CSRs) who staff ISP customer care centers have a tough time trying to figure out when the technical support call is in their realm of responsibility. While users are supplied with the ISP’s router that connects everything, the ISP does not really know what devices are in the house and what services are being used at any time. So, when a subscriber calls with a problem, the CSR must enter into a lengthy dialogue to obtain enough information to make a determination. Customer care really wants to know if the router is the source of your problem. If it is, they will replace it. That is the main tool in their tech arsenal.
Making ISP Customer Care Precise and Effective in the Era of Corona
Thanks to artificial intelligence and other innovative technologies, ISPs can now put some amazing “smarts” right in your home router. Working from the router, the AI can build a dynamic map of the home’s devices and the services that you are consuming at any moment. The most advanced of these new solutions can detect problems and automatically identify the source. These solutions can decide who is responsible so that users call the appropriate customer care that can help. Is the problem in the smart TV? Is the smart TV having trouble communicating with the smart speakers? Is the Netflix service slow right now? How good is the internet service? Is the WiFi suffering interference? Does it have enough bandwidth for the household?
Whom should I call for support?
The AI can figure all this out and let you know. For the user, it means fast, accurate customer care. For the ISP it means far fewer irrelevant technical support calls, with speedier and much more effective resolutions of connected-home problems within their realm of responsibility.
These breakthrough capabilities are so fresh that routers do not yet incorporate them. Could it be that the worldwide, Corona-induced stay-at-home mode that now rules us will be the catalyst that pushes ISPs to adopt these advanced customer care solutions?
About the Author
Amir Kotler is a CEO of both start-ups and established enterprises with multiple assets and holdings. He currently holds the post of CEO for Veego, Inc., a technology leader focused on bringing artificial intelligence and other breakthrough technologies to the automatic detection, analysis and resolution of smart-home device problems. Amir holds an MBA in Marketing from the University of Manchester.