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First suppliers achieve key Wi-Fi benchmark recognition to boost service quality

First Broadband Forum BBF.398 Grade Wi-Fi products set for service providers in bid to save costs while improving customer experience

Broadband Forum has revealed Altice Labs and Calix as the first two suppliers to be listed as part of its newly launched BBF.398 Grade Wi-Fi Programme. The trade body said the move will be welcomed by service providers and product manufacturers in being able to reduce the number of customer complaints they receive about poorly performing devices.

A recently published Broadband Forum report, The future telco – connected home 2021 survey, in partnership with Omdia, highlighted the fact that customer dissatisfaction around Wi-Fi experience is becoming a growing driver of customer churn. It noted that any service calls related to the customer network can be costly and may lead to further operational expenses through engineer call-outs or equipment replacements.

The report found that over 30% of user support calls were related to poor Wi-Fi performance. It stressed that having access to high-quality Wi-Fi is crucial to deliver an enhanced broadband experience for subscribers and Issue 2 of TR-398 is the next step in providing a unified performance testing standard.

Broadband Forum’s BBF.398 Grade Wi-Fi Programme has a primary goal of providing a standard set of test cases and framework to measure aspects of the performance between the access points such as customer premises equipment (CPE) with Wi-Fi, reference stations access – such as a PC and integrated testing equipment – and, if applicable, a Wi-Fi repeater environment.

Broadband Forum said Issue 2 of TR-398 can “seamlessly” validate the devices used in broadband deployments and optimise their performance while addressing and identifying potential operational issues before the devices are introduced to the field. It also updates a number of performance test cases and adds test cases for mesh and Wi-Fi roaming between access points, and for the recently published IEEE Standard 802.11ax-2021.

Receiver sensitivity, throughput, coverage, multi-user support, anti-interference and stability are quantitatively evaluated in TR-398 and, due to the defined key performance indicators, the standard helps operators to select optimal Wi-Fi solutions. These tests will also provide a clearer overview for service providers regarding the overall performance of devices used to build their products and services.

“Issue 2 builds on the foundations laid by TR-398 – the industry’s first open Wi-Fi performance testing programme – in allowing operators to efficiently test Wi-Fi performance, capacity, coverage and stability,” said Lincoln Lavoie, University of New Hampshire interoperability principal engineer and Broadband Forum technical chair. “The performance test plan measures an access point’s performance against the growing expectations of service providers to make sure devices used in their deployments are meeting customer needs and expectations.

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“Operators around the world continue to use TR-398 as the Wi-Fi performance admission specification for broadband CPE products into their networks. It is vitally important that test labs, vendors and service providers continue to come together to meet subscriber Wi-Fi demands and elevate the overall customer experience.”

Altice Labs said in-house networking was one of the critical segments for the company to take into consideration when looking deep into technical and operational quality of service and quality of experience aspects as perceived by its end-users.

“Altice has been successfully deploying FTTx networks throughout the market over the past few decades,” said its general manager, Alcino Lavrador. “In our view, the BBF.398 initiative is fulfilling a significant industry and market requirement by positioning the advantages of Wi-Fi 6 performance together with the relevant technical metrics.”

Shane Eleniak, senior vice-president, revenue edge products at Calix, added: “A collaborative industry approach ensures that broadband service providers of all sizes can accelerate innovation and achieve excellence at scale. In doing so, customers know that our solutions offer superior performance and, in turn, amazing experiences for their subscribers.

“This is a far more productive strategy than proprietary approaches that limit the kind of ground-breaking advancements required to continue propelling the industry forward. We are excited to work with other members of the Broadband Forum to support broadband businesses in their quest for excellence.”

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