About ZIRKEL Wireless
ZIRKEL Wireless is a wireless internet service provider that’s been providing reliable and affordable service to residents in Northwest Colorado since 2001. The company now operates over 27 tower sites and serves over 3,500 subscribers across a 1,800-square-mile range.
We recently held a webinar to chat with Joshua Nowak, Operations Manager at ZIRKEL, about the benefits they’ve seen since adding Preseem to their network stack and how the new Preseem Plus features are saving their team 10-15 hours per week.
Why ZIRKEL Chose Preseem
As with many ISPs, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic drove demand for bandwidth to unprecedented levels at ZIRKEL. The swift move to remote work and schooling from March to May 2020 meant demand exceeded what they’d ever seen before. In addition, the ISP’s base in the mountainous area of Steamboat Springs meant they couldn’t simply add hardware capacity, as most of their tower sites are in the mountains and inaccessible at that time of year.
“So we were scrambling and looking for an opportunity to be able to manage our traffic and shape our traffic, and that’s where Preseem really came into play,” said Joshua.
“We added packet shapers to every one of our access points throughout the network, and we saw a dramatic improvement in the amount of bandwidth that was being consumed. And we saw slow-speed calls go down considerably. It was just a huge impact immediately.”
Using AQM to Improve the Subscriber Experience
From then until early 2022, ZIRKEL primarily used Preseem to find APs and equipment that were being “tapped out.” For example, to identify equipment that was hitting 100% frame utilization and dropping subsequent demand.
“It was a big lesson for us that by artificially decreasing the amount of bandwidth that you could apply to an access point, it would increase the access point’s capability of providing a better experience,” said Joshua. That’s because “latency would drop, retransmits would drop, all of the things that would normally equate with buffering and slow web page loads would essentially drop.”
ZIRKEL also found that Preseem’s use of Active Queue Management (AQM) techniques powered by FQ-CoDel was able to improve the quality of experience for subscribers by separating bulk flows (e.g. large game downloads) from interactive flows (e.g. Zoom calls).
“That was just a huge insight and an eye-opener to us as a company,” he said.
Measuring Bufferbloat to Address Latency Issues
Joshua said that they also started to notice that one customer’s poor internal wi-fi network could start dragging down the capacity of an entire AP. They were then able to pinpoint customers with high latency and fine-tune their internal network via their managed Wi-Fi service.
ZIRKEL also began measuring bufferbloat to determine how much impact routers have on transmitting packets within an internal network. They found that by fixing one customer’s internal Wi-Fi network, they could improve the capacity on an entire AP.
“Preseem was just instrumental in us being able to find those types of problems,” said Joshua. “Even with our managed Wi-Fi support cloud system, we didn’t necessarily have the reporting tools to pinpoint which customers are experiencing the highest amounts of latency. Whereas with the Preseem tools, we were (able to). So that was extremely powerful.”
Using Preseem Plus to Find AP Capacity and Add More Subscribers
Just prior to the most recent WISPAMERICA, ZIRKEL Wireless decided to upgrade and try out the new Preseem Plus features. One of the biggest impacts they saw right away was being able to sort by Available Subscriber Capacity and discover which APs had the most capacity to sell on.
“We found that our network had the capacity to add somewhere close to 1,900 subscribers without our entire system being overloaded,” he said. “Prior to adding the new Preseem Plus features, we knew that some access points on the network had capacity to go sell additional bandwidth and we knew that some access points on the network were overloaded. But we were spending 10, 15-plus hours every week combing through a variety of systems to try and identify this. And with these new features from Preseem, it’s a click of a button.”
He added: “I was blown away by the number of access points that we had that had a tremendous amount of additional capacity. Using that information, we were able to create some really targeted marketing.”
As a result, they’re able to see precisely which neighborhoods they have capacity to sell into and can then target those neighborhoods with great offers and avoid the ones without capacity.
“I can’t even tell you how powerful that in itself was,” said Joshua.
Joshua also mentioned that, prior to using Preseem Plus, he couldn’t definitively answer when asked how much capacity they had or which APs were overloaded. His response was generally based on a gut feeling‒now he knows the answer “within less than 30 seconds.”
A Move Toward Proactive Management of the Network
Other benefits of Preseem Plus for ZIRKEL include the ability to sort by CPE to see which subscribers are having a poor experience, as well as being able to look at an AP and see which subscribers are having a negative effect on the overall health score.
With these new tools, “we can create a list of our least happy customers and we can proactively go and try to fix their problems,” he said. “It gave us an action list of who exactly we need to be spending time on.”
ZIRKEL has even instituted a Preseem Audit Process, where each week the team looks at towers in Preseem to see which APs have the least amount of capacity or airtime remaining to determine their work for the week. Proactively addressing issues like this can also help ISPs like ZIRKEL survive amid increased competition driven by recent government funding, said Joshua.
“What we’ve determined is our way to win in this environment is to give the best possible customer experience. And the way that we approach that is we try to be proactive in fixing customer problems before they ever pick up the phone,” he said, adding that this personal touch helps breed loyalty. “Using these tools have really given us a tremendous amount of insight in how we can do that.”
Watch the full webinar below to hear from Joshua and watch as he walks through his favorite features in Preseem. If you’re interested in seeing how Preseem Plus can make life easier for your team, book a demo and start your free 30-day trial with us!