Mitigation practices for improving home broadband services

During the first two months of the COVID-19 crisis we monitored traffic patterns on broadband lines from different points of presence (i.e. CPEs, copper or optical fiber local loops), while helping operators provide solutions to mitigate the impact of higher traffic on existing infrastructure.

This effort revealed some interesting insights and uncovered some effective mitigation strategies that operators can take to improve the customer quality-of-experience.

Home-based traffic patterns are now very different

We compiled usage data by combining feedback from key operators as well as running direct measurements at DSLAM/OLT and CPE points using ASSIA’s Expresse and CloudCheck products.  

Here is what we uncovered: 

  1. A steep rise in upload traffic with the upload-to-download traffic ratio increasing more than 60%. The peak you can see in late December is due to the impact of video calls around Christmas Day.
  2. Customer usage patterns have shifted. With video conferencing happening from home during the week, what used to be weekend traffic profiles are now taking place throughout the week.
  3. Upstream traffic levels cross the long-term average level 4-hours earlier than before, changing to align to a workday schedule.

Congestion 

Increased traffic demand will often create congestion. We are detecting a lot of congestion at the Wi-Fi level which can only be corrected at the access node. ASSIA Expresse is a valuable tool for operators to help mitigate this, especially since upstream congestion correlates to poor perceived quality and is a big factor for increased customer churn. 

  • ASSIA CloudCheck detected spikes in upstream congestion. Further analysis found that 40% of customers with 2 upstream congestion detections in the prior 7 days had rated the reliability of their service as poor. This negatively impacted the operator’s Net Promoter Score versus its competitor. 
  • The percentage of customers experiencing upstream congestion has almost doubled for lines with high upstream rates. For lines with low upstream rates (1Mbps and below), the percentage of lines experiencing upstream congestion was already high and degraded further. 

Mitigation strategies

These are a sampling of the mitigation strategies that our clients could use to cope with the situation:

  • Analyze lines capable of higher uplink traffic with ASSIA Expresse and then change profile optimization logic. This task can be implemented on selected services and then be generalized to all services.
  • Create a capability to switch between a conservative and aggressive optimization logic where some customers can be upgraded outside of their SPs, then add lines to higher-tier services and upsell customers into those services. The two versions of the service, one normal and one “on steroids,” can be switched for customers through ASSIA Expresse.
  • Launch a market campaign to increase rates based on a previous ASSIA Expresse service analysis of the whole operator network plus the definition and upload of new profiles.
  • Create a new service based on identification of lines capable of carrying a higher-tier service by utilizing the ASSIA Expresse service recommender and creating new profiles.

Conclusion

The impact of COVID-19 has changed internet usage patterns in dramatic ways, creating headaches for operators, but also significant new business opportunities for those that embrace the changes and put into place technologies that help them identify problems, design new strategies to improve service and encourage upselling to customers who now need to consume more.