New consumer demands based on shifting behavioral patterns as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis are giving rise to a new set of key success factors that network service providers (NSPs) will have to address to achieve their strategic objectives over the course of 2022.
“Nearly two years since the start of this pandemic, Technicolor Connected Home has worked with its partners to support NSPs in developing innovative services to address shifting consumer behaviours and new customer expectations,” said Girish Naganathan, Chief Technology Officer at Technicolor Connected Home. “Despite this being a time of great aberration, NSPs have been able to create new revenue streams and deploy next-generation offerings.”
To provide additional perspective on how different players in the industry are bringing the latest innovations to network service providers across the world, Technicolor Connected Home requested members of the HERO Partnership Program to share their forecast for 2022 trends
Wi-Fi connectivity emerges as a critical connected home requirement
“We have crossed an inflection point where home Wi-Fi is as vital as electricity for sustaining our way of life — keeping us productive, informed, entertained, and connected,” said Bart Vercammen, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Software Product Line, at Airties.
They have seen a significant rise in demand for comprehensive wireless network connectivity throughout the home as more people spend more time at home with more devices than ever.
“Reliance on home Wi-Fi has forever changed. Trends like the ‘enterprisation of the home,’ remote learning and telemedicine are here to stay, and with that comes significant opportunities and challenges for broadband operators around the globe,” stated Vercammen.
Airties commissioned a survey that asked 1,500 consumers about Home Wi-Fi and found a few notable themes that should influence NSP strategies in 2022.
“First, 80% of consumers said they would rather their broadband subscription include all of their home Wi-Fi gear – instead of purchasing anything through retail,” Vecammen said. “Over half (58%) said they would consider upgrading to a faster tier of Internet service if their broadband operator offered a premium Wi-Fi system that guaranteed consistent Wi-Fi in every room.”
The Airties survey found that 71% of consumers expect to continue working from home post-pandemic with 39% of respondents reporting that they were reimbursed by their employer for new Wi-Fi gear they purchased. Meanwhile, 32% indicated that their broadband subscriptions were subsidised by their employer.
Wi-Fi 6 and 6E powered by the cloud enhances home networks
During 2021, there was major concern that home broadband could fail due to exponential increases in usage, load, interference and congestion as a result of global work-from-home directives said Todd Grantham, CMO for Plume. Indeed, the average number of active users on Plume home networks in the U.S. during the working day exploded from 22.6 million prior to the pandemic to 41.1 million in December 2021.
“While widespread broadband network failure didn’t materialize, in-home Wi-Fi networks did feel massive pressure – in some Plume households network usage peaked at 120% more than the pre-pandemic norm – and as many scrambled for solutions, Plume’s intelligent cloud-based platform proactively optimised the changing environments to ensure that homes continued to receive impeccable service,” said Grantham.
Moving into 2022, the pandemic continues to fuel an unprecedented amount of work-from-home activity, with both businesses and consumers relying heavily on service providers to deliver flawless experiences.
This, coupled with the introduction of more devices and new Wi-Fi generations — including Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E – has increased management complexity. In April 2021, 50% of Plume homes in the U.S. had 19 devices or more connected to wireless networks (up 27% in 2020). The top 10% of homes had 41 devices or more, according to Plume research.
“Throughout 2022, we believe service providers that move beyond speed and price by leveraging new services and experiences to support evolving customer needs will be truly successful – and that can only be achieved by harnessing the speed, flexibility and power of the cloud,” adds Grantham.
Rising QoE expectations elevate interest in Multicast ABR
As direct-to-consumer (DTC) video consumption continued to surge in 2021, NSPs are taking a hard look at the underlying technology that supports the delivery of consistently high-quality content experiences.
Many NSPs are concluding that adaptive bitrate (ABR) technology will replace traditional techniques for broadcasting video sooner rather than later, according to Damien Sterkers, Video Solutions Marketing Director for Broadpeak, a designer and manufacturer of video delivery components.
Specifically, there is rising interest in multicast ABR technologies for optimising streaming performance.
“The events of the past two years have cast a bright light on the need for collaboration between content providers and ISPs so that these optimizations apply not only to ISP content but also to any third-party content,” said Sterkers.
Technicolor Connected Home, he added, is among the first CPE providers to understand the opportunities associated with harnessing these technologies to unleash the huge potential of this business relationship.
“They saw that it was necessary to open up the CPE environment to specialised applications, in a similar fashion to Apple opening their smartphones with the AppStore,” Sterkers added.
Broadpeak’s nanoCDN embedded applications are being used by Technicolor to manage the dynamic selection of the best video delivery path in the network, using multicast ABR when possible.
“This ensures that each user gets the maximum quality of experience (QoE) while optimising network capacity and costs for the NSP. In 2021, this powerful combination was largely adopted by several operators such as TIM in Italy or Megacable in Mexico. All parties in the ecosystem greatly benefit from this collaboration: the content provider increases the QoE and the eligibility of its service while the NSP gets more control on the delivery of the third party content, reducing its infrastructure costs.”
New threats drive need for Smart Connected Home security
Ongoing efforts to support the shelter-in-place workforce has attracted unwelcome attention from malware developers and other bad actors that are targeting the connected home environment. As a consequence, NSPs are now increasingly expected to create stable, secure broadband access and digital services, says Einaras von Gravrock, CEO of CUJO AI, a security service provider that has introduced advanced connected device identification, real-time network security, privacy protection, content access control and digital monitoring via Technicolor Connected Home CPE.
“Smart home device penetration continued to grow, as did the impact of their security issues, putting pressure on NSPs to provide simple, user-friendly, personalized, and secure experiences within the home network,” says von Gravrock.
Securing smart and IoT devices is a key area of focus at CUJO AI. The latest research from the company shows that malicious actors increasingly target residential endpoints in search of private data that is often located in network access storage (NAS) devices. In fact, almost a quarter of all malicious remote access attempts target NAS resources.
“New security, phishing, and remote access threats are being discovered every day, and NSPs will continue feeling pressure to take care of subscriber security. Thankfully, CUJO AI’s work with Technicolor Connected Home enables operators and their customers to take advantage of advanced security technologies that serve to protect them from those ever-evolving security challenges,” says von Gravrock.
Programmatic advertising contributes to NSP monetisation strategies
Enthusiastic Smart TV adoption, coupled with the increased time spent online at home by consumers through 2021 has created an unprecedented opportunity for NSPs to explore how innovative advertising strategies can contribute to bottom line objectives, according to Cyril Daoud, CEO for Hoppr, an advertising innovator that connects consumers to advertising agencies and brands through NSPs in an extremely accurate and targeted manner.
According to research from Parks Associates, consumer adoption of Smart TVs in the US rose to 56 percent during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Technicolor Connected Home has led the market in deploying intelligent Android and RDK customer premises equipment (CPE) to support consumer demands for the wide array of video and gaming experiences.
In fact, it is estimated that consumers now have access to between six and 12 over-the-top (OTT) video services that they use on a regular basis. Not all of these services are paid subscription video on demand. Consumers are also taking increasing advantage of advertising video on demand (AVOD) supported services.
“Hoppr is working to integrate its ad platform solution onto Technicolor Connected Home’s portfolio of set-top boxes to support operators that want to engage in delivering digital advertising in new engaging formats to subscribers. Working together, Hoppr and Technicolor Connected Home are helping operators to monetize the ‘in-between-moments’ — as viewers search for their next entertainment experience,” said Daoud.
“The timing could not be better for NSPs to develop and implement their programmatic advertising strategies. In a 2021 BTR-100 Survey commissioned by Hoppr, 85% of senior executives with European communications service providers believe new developments in ‘ad-tech solutions’ are making it easier for network service providers to deploy programmatic advertising initiatives,” said Daoud. “The trend will continue over the course of 2022.”
Remote customer care is a rising key success factor in 2022
Faced with supply chain challenges for new devices, NSPs looked towards software solutions to invest in during 2021 and customer care was a focus for many, says Adam Greenwood-Byrne, CEO for RealVNC, a provider of remote access solutions, helping some of the biggest companies in the world to connect people and devices.
To address this demand, RealVNC introduced a new “draw” feature to its Connect TV solution in 2021, that allows customer support representatives (CSRs) to engage more interactively with Pay TV customers at home by sketching circles, lines and other graphics that show on the customer’s screen and help explain the guidance from the CSR.
The graphics fade away after a few seconds and the visual guidance is a great education tool when customers are learning how to configure a new set-top-box. The result is fewer repeat calls, improved care centre efficiencies and happier customers.
“It’s also a great feature for NSPs focussed on accessibility. Sight- or hearing-impaired customers benefit from the feature as another communication method alongside the traditional voice call to the care centre,” said Greenwood-Byrne.
Just as members of communities at home have learned to rely on each other during the pandemic, NSPs have learned to engage with technology companies that are leading the field.
“It makes sense to license technologies that help deliver best-in-class service, rather than spend the time and resources to develop and maintain parallel solutions,” said Greenwood-Byrne.