Wi-Fi is “more important than chocolate”: Why ISPs are getting serious about the smart home experience

A recent survey of 8,000 Europeans found quality broadband and Wi-Fi in our homes is now more valuable to consumers than sex, holidays, their favorite TV channels or chocolate. It’s no wonder ISPs are paying increasing attention to helping their subscribers get better connected.

Better connectivity means high quality and security

But the Wi-Fi experience isn’t just about signal quality. As the world gets hooked on IoT devices to communicate, entertain and even monitor our home or health, consumers are increasingly aware of the security risks. When hacks, denial of service, or software vulnerabilities affect our Wi-Fi signal, it’s no longer just an inconvenience or privacy breach, it can be life-or-death.

I spent a lot of time talking to ISPs at IBC 2019 as we launched our new Trusted Home solution, and it’s reassuring to see operators across the world are recognizing that connectivity and security are inextricably linked. And that both rely on visibility of all devices in the home.

Security suffers due to lack of oversight

Some threats are well known – devices leave factories with flaws, become vulnerable if we use default passwords or fail to patch them, or are so old they no longer get patches.  But no consumer patches devices they’ve forgotten about – the printer they connected five years ago, or the thermostat they don’t think of as connected. Some homes also have rogue devices connected by the hacker next door or a plumber who fixed a tap two years ago. Visibility of ALL devices on a network is essential to security, but is something few consumers consider.

Security also suffers when Wi-Fi quality falls. Consumers without IT expertise (and let’s face it, that’s most people!) can put their home and data at risk by tinkering with device and router settings to improve connectivity. They may also introduce vulnerabilities by installing insecure Wi-Fi extenders.

ISPs can differentiate by enabling better smart home management 

All this is a major headache for ISPs. Consumer frustrations can increase support costs, decrease appetite for premium services such as 4K streaming, and drive churn. Household security breaches also damage operator reputations, even when ISPs have no visibility or control over the flawed devices.

It’s a mistake, then, for ISPs to consider household security and in-home Wi-Fi quality as separate issues – or worse still, to dismiss them as the consumer’s problem. ISPs that focus on giving subscribers the tools to tackle both challenges themselves can achieve a truly great user experience, while protecting their brand and revenues. Pakistan’s leading telco, PTCL, recognized the value for its subscribers, in particular from parental control features, and signed a Trusted Home strategic partnership before leaving IBC.

Smart home management will be the next big differentiator for ISPs, and an essential part of protecting their  investments in OTT and IPTV. A reputation for great security AND connectivity may be the crucial edge against the march of direct-to-consumer video streaming platforms.