Last week, StarHub announced a partnership with Google to provide advanced Wi-Fi connectivity in the home. Ovum agrees with the direction of StarHub's strategy, but as outlined in the report "The Importance of the Home Network for Delivering High-Quality Digital Applications", we question the need for broadband service providers to partner with Google in what is a key strategic area.
Service providers should maintain their position in the home
The home Wi-Fi network is a critical element of the digital application supply chain; yet, according to Ovum data, 70% of broadband users still experience Wi-Fi issues at some level (20% on a regular basis). In other words, only 30% of broadband customers are entirely satisfied with their home Wi-Fi – 70% are not.
Ironically, it is often the more affluent, premium-paying broadband customers who encounter the biggest issues because they typically live in larger houses, and as a rule of thumb, the larger the property, the bigger the Wi-Fi challenge. Because the majority of consumers view the home network as the responsibility of their broadband service provider, service providers are understandably now working hard to resolve home network problems.
Many service providers have introduced more media-capable Wi-Fi routers, and many sell additional peripheral devices such as Wi-Fi extenders through their online stores. But cost is still a limiting factor for service providers seeking to offer the optimum Wi-Fi technology as standard, and without help and advice, the vast majority of consumers wouldn't know what a Wi-Fi extender is, let alone buy one.
Service providers can help customers by providing a greater range of home W-Fi options as part of their broadband portfolio and value-added services, just as StarHub is doing with its Google WiFi deal. In this particular deal, customers of StarHub Broadband or Hubbing all-in-one plans can receive a three-pack Google WiFi bundle, which normally costs $300, for an additional S$15 ($11) per month for 24 months.
There are plenty of vendors that can provide StarHub with advanced Wi-Fi capability under its own brand, so why has it partnered with Google? StarHub's chief marketing officer, Howie Lau, stated that the partnership was down to "ease of use and aesthetics," but these reasons don't seem strong enough for handing the keys to such a crucial element of the future home to Google.
Ovum can understand service providers wishing to partner in areas that are outside of their capability, or where an OTT's brand is much stronger, but service providers also need to continue to market their own strengths, and being the brand to provide the best QoE inside and outside of the home should be one of them.
Michael Philpott is Ovum’s senior practice leader for consumer services