With schools and offices closing, the nature of daytime internet usage in mobile and fixed broadband networks will change. The traffic and activities that would have taken place face-to-face or on networks in the schools, universities, and offices will move to the home.
At a network level, it means less mobile traffic and more fixed traffic. Inside the fixed networks on our household broadbands, the daytime traffic profile will change dramatically from almost nothing (because very few people are home), to a profile similar to peak time usage (the whole family is home and typically watching video), but with a shift to more work from home and study from home applications like corporate VPNs, Google Classroom, video conferencing, etc.
It’s possible we’ll see a new peak behavior with both video conferencing and video streamin, cloud gaming, and other bandwidth-hungry applications. The peak may move from evening to daytime for some households, and maybe for the network at an aggregate.
Certainly the peak for upstream traffic will move to this daytime period as video conferencing and online classroom traffic is typically bidirectional in nature.
So to maximize the quality of experience (QoE) in these situations, what can the subscribers do themselves, and what support and services should the operators offer to help?
Household best practices:
- Review your WiFi network. Many fixed broadband households are more limited by bad WiFi (placement, interference, congestion, etc.) than they are by their broadband connection. There are a lot of ways to improve this situation: use wired connections where you can, build out your network with more APs, buy newer APs with better antenna setups, more modern WiFi protocols, and more performance. To get help, talk to your operator about best practices.
- Upgrade your internet service plan. You may actually need more bandwidth these days; especially your upstream connection, which may be limiting your work/study from home experience. Talk to your operator on what plan is most suitable for you, but don’t upgrade to a high speed connection if your WiFi is not under control.
- Prioritize your applications. In a work from home situation, your work comes first, not your kids' YouTube sessions. YouTube will work just fine at 1080p or 720p, but your videoconferencing will suffer a lot more in congested situations the more bandwidth is wasted on video with your kids watching cartoons, or Netflix binging, or reruns of the Premier League at 4am in the basement. How you deal with application priorities within your speed plan is entirely up to you. There are many ways to do this, but talk to your operator first about appropriate ways for you to address this.
- Neighbor controls. In most networks, your capacity is shared with some number of other people in your vicinity. This is true for cable, fixed wireless, and even fiber and DSL networks in the backhaul connections from the access layer. If there is congestion there because your neighbors are aggressively using more than their fair share, there’s nothing you can do about this – but your operator can. If you feel your QoE is not what it should be, and your WiFi and broadband connections are properly specced out, then the next step is to ask the operator to go fix your situation. You are important!
- Most of your subscribers’ issues will be WiFi related, as noted above. A lot of subscribers use the AP's in the CPEs, and a lot of them are old or placed in a less than perfect location in the household. And most subscribers won’t understand this; they’ll just suffer and call customer care eventually or churn to a different operator. We suggest you get on top of this. Figure out what subscribers are suffering from bad WiFi QoE and get proactive. One way to do that is through Sandvine WiFi QoE Analytics use case, a completely passive analytics solution that, using machine learning, infers what customers are suffering from, the WiFi diagnosis, and what the resolution should be.
- If the WiFi is not the issue, the speed plan could be. Sandvine’s data will help you understand what customers are barely scratching the surface of their speed plan’s capacity (good profitable customers), and what customers are suffering due to a too low speed plan (perfect upsell opportunity, and a churn risk if you don’t take action).
- If the WiFi and speed plan are okay, then you may still have access congestion on the downstream and/or upstream resources. Sandvine’s data will tell you what access domains and subscribers are congested, when, how bad, how it’s trending, and if it’s not congested, then when it will be. We’ll tell you what parts of the network are strong enough for work or study from home traffic, and what parts need to be improved.
- Capacity upgrade or traffic management. In most situations, you actually don’t need more capacity, because the majority of the traffic is from your non-profitable heavy users, or applications that are using unnecessary amounts of bandwidth. This is always a balance and, with Sandvine’s Traffic Management solution along with our scoring methodology, you can strike that balance right. You do need to get more capacity when, even with traffic management done right, your subscribers are not reaching an appropriate QoE during peak. And you do need to know that at least six months in advance so you are able to plan for capacity upgrades, but if you upgrade too soon, you’re wasting money.
- COVID-19 consequences. Your normal capacity upgrade plans and normal trouble shooting activities (like house visits) may not be available for the next three to 12 months. With quarantines, people on sick leave, your staff working from home, etc., planning and executing on capacity upgrades is hard to do. And your traffic will likely continue to grow, beyond your previous predictions. During this window, managing QoE with traffic management, priorities, heavy user management, shaping, whatever you need to do, may become critical.
Knowing your current state
QoE trends and your network’s ability to deliver a good QoE is crucial. Sandvine’s ScoreCard is the world’s most widely used and most accurate way of scoring by application categories and your network’s capacity. Can you deliver a good video conferencing QoE to your subscribers or not? If you can do it today, can you do it in three months with the current network growth? If you don’t know the answer to that, you may want to come and talk to us.