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Future of Home Networking – Single Play?

Posted by Hardik Ajmera on 5 April 2016

As my wife and I prepared to move house, I was given the task of making sure the Wi-Fi would work in every corner of our new home – not just because I am the techie of the house, but also because Wi-Fi issues in our old home caused no end of frustration! With more and more of our home devices needing Wi-Fi, this was the first time ‘sorting the Wi-Fi’ had made it on to my wife’s house move planning list. But seeing as we’re in the 21st century, I was convinced I had walked away with a seemingly easy task – surely there will be a solution from our service provider for next-gen home networking that ensures Wi-Fi will work everywhere in our new home?

As I started to explore my options (and like anything in technology), I was presented with a dizzying number of options from various service providers – from high speed internet plans through to custom TV plans, voice plans, security packages and more. We are heavy watchers of on-demand TV and have subscribed to a number of OTT services, so cable TV wasn’t necessary (along with our fellow millennials, we are cutting the cord and ditching cable). Similarly for voice I have Vonage and Skype for Business, so a dedicated phone line wasn’t necessary either. To me, our needs were really quite simple: high speed internet and complete Wi-Fi coverage across the home.

I realized then that having a broadband connection today has become like a utility –  so I decided that what I was only really interested in was a reliable, complete Wi-Fi service across the home. This would cover all of our home networking needs for the foreseeable future.

But, to my surprise, this was not an option from any service provider! There were promises of 100Mbps+ Internet and 100+ HD channels, but there was no guarantee of reliable and complete Wi-Fi coverage across the home.

It was then time for Plan B: designing the home Wi-Fi network myself. My options were either to use a router plus extender, meshed APs, or go for high-end enterprise systems (which I knew would be too expensive for the home). In the end, setting up our home network using consumer-grade hardware relied on trial and error – and no guarantee of always having a reliable Wi-Fi connection. I was able to see close to 50 SSID’s from any corner of the home, so I needed a system which could deal with the chaos and congestion of unlicensed spectrum. I then made a stark realization – it is pretty much impossible to guarantee Wi-Fi within the home.

Google’s On-Hub and newer players like Eero, Luma, and Plume have made it their mission to solve the Wi-Fi coverage issue within the home. Some of these systems are expensive, and some require consumers to do the heavy lifting of installation and management. Their success relies on service providers failing to solve in-home Wi-Fi issues.

But this is an area service providers will want to get involved in, as Smart Homes could be a lucrative opportunity for them. They have realized there could be huge value in making in-home Wi-Fi reliable and complete – no matter what options and add-ons subscribers choose, the service customers really want above all is Wi-Fi. Comcast, for example, recently promised to get serious about in-home Wi-Fi.

It remains to be seen, however, which service provider will take the first step of promising a reliable and managed Wi-Fi service – alongside their promises of 100Mbps+ speeds.

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