Poor Wi-Fi management causing bad user experience, report says

Wi-Fi often isn't managed properly, says a new study. Channels go unused and large numbers of access points' operating frequencies are not changing appropriately when affected by interference.

Rural sign on roadside saying free wi-fi
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A recently released study conducted in the context of Mobile Network Operators' (MNOs') use of Wi-Fi for offloading has found that Wi-Fi often isn't managed properly.

Under-use, inefficiencies, and interference create a "sub-optimal" experience for users, the study says.

Frequencies not changing

Although it was geared towards MNO executives, whose companies are using unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum to offload cellular traffic, the study found the inefficiencies and problems in normal Wi-Fi access points (APs), such as the kind we use in and around offices.

XCellAir looked at 250 live Wi-Fi access points around its offices in Montreal, Canada, and discovered that 92% did not adjust their operating frequency as needed—even if performance was slowed by interference. XCellAir is cloud-based radio network, Quality of Experience (QoE) solutions provider.

Unused channels

Additionally, it found that channels were unused "despite congestion and interference."

The study found that "on average, two channels worth of bandwidth was unused at any one time," despite the congestion and interference.

Each channel equals 50 Mbps of bandwidth, so 100 Mbps of bandwidth was unused overall, the authors say. One hundred megabits per second is enough "latent capacity" to stream 25 high-definition videos concurrently.


The analysis modeled "common urban scenarios in which public Wi-Fi is in everyday use."

The study used a combination of XCellAir-controlled and other APs.

The Wi-Fi access points that were "controlled by the XCellAir solution" were all normal public Wi-Fi APs from a mixture of suppliers.

"The other Wi-Fi devices we observed were in use by other entities in the surrounding area that consisted of a mix of public and enterprise Wi-Fi deployments," a representative told me in an email.

Customer experience

XCellAir, which conducted the research in a partnership with independent telecoms analyst Real Wireless, says MNOs should ensure that the QoS with Wi-Fi is as good as with traditional mobile networks.

"For Wi-Fi offload to be truly valuable, the customers' quality of service needs to be just as good as it would be on the cellular network, rather than a second-class network customers are stuck with when data demand is high," Narayan Menon, founder and CTO of XCellAir, said on the website.

XCellAir also says that these inefficiencies cost MNOs money, to the tune of $18 billion over a five-year period.


XCellAir says that its product fixes the problem by ensuring that operators can offload data to Wi-Fi without affecting the customer experience.

It does this by unlocking unused, unlicensed spectrum capacity and "tracking and fixing" access point-level issues before these affect the quality of service.

Poor management

"Our study reveals the destructive impact of poor Wi-Fi QoE management in cannibalizing valuable network capacity," Simon Saunders, Director of Technology for Real Wireless, said on XCellAir's website.

And indeed, the problems that XCellAir and the Real Wireless analysts uncovered at the 250 live Wi-Fi access points it studied could be a worthwhile heads-up to take an extra look at how well AP operating frequencies are adjusting for interference, and for unused bandwidth in non-MNO environments too.

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