Data: It’s Not Just For Nerds Any More!
We recently held the ISP Virtual Summit, where experts from across the industry weighed in on a number of topics relevant to regional operators.
One such session was “Data: It’s Not Just for Nerds Any More,” a cheekily-titled webinar on how ISPs can use data to evaluate business performance, uncover key insights, and drive effective planning and growth in an increasingly competitive environment.
Moderated by Preseem’s Senior Product Manager, Jeremy Austin, the webinar was presented by Kristian Hoffmann, Chief Architect at Cal.net, an ISP serving California’s Central Valley and rural north.
During the hour-long session, Kristian spoke about how data can be used to support intuitive decision-making and bolster grant applications. He also showed how identifying access point capacity issues can boost your bottom line. Read on for a recap or watch the full webinar here.
Central Valley, California is one of the regions served by Cal.net
The Importance of Data for ISPs
Kristian immediately highlighted two areas where data can be of critical value for ISPs. First, it can be used to replace, or at least augment, intuitive decision-making. For example, access point capacity may previously have been determined by gut feeling.
Using the right tools and data, however, can confirm or refute those feelings with cold, hard numbers. That said, no process can be sterilized completely by data, as operators still need to understand their particular community and landscape, for example.
The other key area where data becomes essential is as a requirement for a successful government subsidy or grant application. As ISPs chase more grant funding in an effort to stay competitive, they need to measure things such as location-level data to understand the reach of broadband.
Data can also be used to understand program or funding eligibility, as well as to understand if an application is worth it based on how many customers you already have in a given region.
Additional important data points to track relate to two things that Kristian said are precious to all WISPs: customers and spectrum. Key customer metrics include those not specific to ISPs but tracked by all service industries, such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), Average Revenue per User (ARPU), and social media metrics like followers and engagement.
As for spectrum, particularly unlicensed, metrics can be harder to qualify. These can include: Does high RSSI mean high quality? Do high speeds equal high efficiency? How well are you using that resource? With some equipment that regional operators are used to dealing with, these questions (as well as being able to analyze at large scale and identify trends) have been traditionally hard to answer.
Unsold Access Point Capacity is Revenue Potential
Determining AP capacity has traditionally been one of the “dark arts” of RF management. Intuition and gut feeling might work for a while when you’re smaller but it doesn’t really allow you to scale. For example, there are not enough hours in the day to identify capacity on an access point-to-access point basis.
Being able to identify and quantify available access point capacity quickly and accurately allows you to find underdeveloped markets and additional revenue. For example, an AP with significant capacity means your sales team can target that area strategically to add more customers, giving you more bang for your marketing buck. Unsold capacity is also an upsell opportunity for existing customers, thereby increasing your ARPU.
Available Subscriber Capacity data is easily viewed for each AP in Preseem
Poorly Utilized Spectrum is an Expense
APs with low-quality metrics are an expense, tying up resources (spectrum) that could allow for additional growth. Identifying poorly-performing APs as they trend downward (before bottoming out) allows you to correct them before the customer calls. Preventing calls before they happen is a force multiplier, Kristian said, freeing up staff to focus on improvements instead of always putting out fires.
“Unlicensed spectrum is something that should be used with a high degree of stewardship, it needs to be looked after. It’s to the betterment of all, if all WISPs practice good spectral efficiency in their builds, that means less interference from the competition,” Kristian said. “It benefits everybody.”
He added that knowing that there’s an issue to address before a customer even has the thought in their head that something’s wrong (causing them to run a speed test and then submit a ticket) is gold. The ideal is for your support team to have “nothing to do.” That is, they’re not tied up in tickets and calls, giving them time to then analyze more data or proactively use tools to find room in the network or improve efficiency.
As Kristian noted, fixing something before it becomes a problem is generally cheaper than waiting for something to fail. The proactive approach helps to minimize any downtime or support tickets that you might have to deal with.
Use Data to Help Solve Problems
The slide above shows an example of a report Kristian created from Preseem data. You can see that low-performing, low-utilized APs are grouped on the bottom left. These can then be looked into to see if they’re candidates for consolidation or even decommissioning.
The section labelled “Sell Existing Capacity?” shows APs that have some room—these can then be handed to the marketing department for potential upsells. This is a great example of how data can show you not only what is and isn’t working, but can also actually generate practical work items for your team to do.
You can see Kristian’s full presentation and watch Jeremy run through some fun and practical ways to work with your data in the video below!