February 2024

Welcome to Plume IQ - our reveal of data-driven intelligence and consumer insights from 3 billion connected devices and 60 million locations, managed by Plume’s cloud platform. The data below is from a sample of our locations.

PlumeIQ - Wired Up: Unmasking the Truth Behind Internet Connections

Plume IQ

Over the last few years, the broadband access industry has seen increasing popularity of wireless internet access using technologies such as 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) and low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications. Wireless broadband access has grown in places where traditional wired options like DSL are limited in performance, as well as in locations where customer satisfaction or pricing with incumbent wired broadband access operators warrant switching to an alternative wireless access provider.

Wireless access operators entice customers to switch with simple self-installation options, no-commitment contracts, and economic fixed-rate pricing. While transitioning from wired to wireless internet access presents a notable technological shift, it is essential to acknowledge at this time that the user experience with wireless access may be subpar to wired access options.

As a snapshot of the actual, current status from the field, Plume IQ took a closer look at four key dimensions — availability, reliability, consistency, and speed — in both access types, to gauge potential customer sentiment from a subset of homes whose WiFi networks Plume manages in the United States. Within the wired and wireless access types, we drilled deeper and compared the broadband acces technologies of cellular FWA, LEO satellite, DOCSIS, and fiber. The sample data set includes homes whose broadband is provided by a diverse range of wired access operators in the US including both then major national players and smaller regional operators. The dominant wireless operators we see in our sample data set included AT&T FWA, T-Mobile FWA, Verizon FWA, and Starlink satellite.

Raw performance of the connections was determined by the total throughput at different times of the day. On the basis of the actual speed tiers the subscribers chose, download speeds are 2.9 times higher for wired broadband customers on average, with fiber broadband subscriptions delivering 4.5 times the download speeds of satellite. Fiber broadband subscribers are enjoying a mean download speed of 598 Mbps, followed by DOCSIS at 498 Mbps, then FWA is at 216 Mbps while satellite is at 133 Mbps. Based on the actual load in home networks we observe by way of the devices and applications running over residential WiFi, we believe that given a reliable and consistent broadband connection, even a 100 Mbps download speed may be sufficient today for the majority of homes in the US. The disparity in performance is more pronounced and noticeable in the upload direction with wired connections delivering 8 times greater speeds over wireless. A typical satellite connection is 22 times lower in average upload performance relative to fiber.

But in today's broadband market environment, we submit that internet access is a commodity differentiated mainly by its price and the marketing prowess of its provider. As long as the home WiFi network is carefully managed, continuously optimized, and applications are dynamically prioritized, even the lowest broadband speed tier offered today may be good enough for many homes. In this context, the dimensions that define the true quality of broadband pipes are availability, reliability and consistency of the connection, rather than speed. Along those dimensions, the actual data suggests that there is significant disparity between wired and wireless broadband access.

Plume IQ Feb Graph One

When it comes to network availability, every minute of downtime can lead to extreme frustration, and we've seen that even a single bad experience that interrupts an important video meeting or a homework session can lead to subscriber churn. Wired internet connections deliver on average 46% less offline time than their wireless counterparts, relieving consumers of 44 minutes of downtime per week. Fiber networks have the highest uptime, cutting the number of offline minutes by 51% compared to cellular FWA connections.

Network reliability closely follows the same trends, with wired internet connections observing 34% fewer occurrences of offline events than wireless connections. Specifically, Plume IQ observed an average of 10.3 offline incidents a month for satellite, and 12.5 incidents for FWA, while fiber and DOCSIS significantly lower at 7.6 and 8.4 offline events per month, respectively.

On consistency, Plume IQ observed that there are material fluctuations throughout the day on wireless broadband access. When compared to the mean download speed, a typical wireless broadband access location saw its speed peak at around 4 am with 16% (FWA) to 26% (satellite) higher than the mean, but saw it slowly decline throughout the day. At its lowest, at around 8 pm, the speed is 11% (FWA) to 37% (satellite) lower than the mean of the location. Wired broadband access is much more consistent throughout the day, peaking at 0.7% above the mean and 2.6% below it. The 27% (FWA) to 63% (satellite) range of fluctuation in speed observed in wireless access connections can lead to material degradation of consumer application experience since the wireless pipes offered today are smaller than wired. On FWA, the scarcity of limited and shared wireless spectrum as an indeterministic transmission medium, as opposed to more deterministic wired connections, remain as significant cost and technology challenges its providers must address in order to match the consumer experience offered by wired connections.

Plume IQ Graph speed over time of day

While FWA has enjoyed market share gains at the loss of DOCSIS in the US in recent years, the actual data raises certain questions as to how long that growth may be sustained, particularly if the DOCSIS broadband access providers who have a clear network advantage today engage with more aggressive pricing for their lower tiers of broadband access offerings. Though we expect further technological advances in FWA and satellite broadband access to ultimately benefit the consumer in terms of choice and cost.

A future edition of Plume IQ will drill down into the latency dimension and the overall consumer application and device quality of experience (QoE).

From Plume: Introducing Network Priority

Plume is now rolling out a new feature for HomePass, Network Priority, that will give users a greater sense of control over their network. They now have the power to temporarily prioritize traffic from a person, a device, or specific app categories (gaming, streaming, video calls). The new default "Automated Priority" has become more intelligent with real-time traffic steering, and network management will improve with deeper app-level awareness.

Read more here


Plume won The Cloud Awards' Cloud Management Solution of the Year for our CEM Platform featuring enhanced Haystack & Full Stack Optimization.

News Roundup

New paper touts Plume's 'Adapt' over 'EasyMesh' for better home Wi-Fi quality of experience

"Numerous solutions and architectures exist for ISPs to manage and control multi-AP Wi-Fi networks inside the home. Many are proprietary and a handful are based on open source software. Two of the most popular open source platforms for multi-AP management are Plume's 'Adapt' and the Wi-Fi Alliance's standardised 'EasyMesh' – and both are designed to deliver Wi-Fi management capability and interoperability between CPE (and mesh Wi-Fi) vendors for multi-AP home Wi-Fi."

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"In addition to managing your network for you, HomePass also doubles as a home security system; the Pods have built-in motion sensors that can alert you if something or someone is moving in your home — and it'll even include the name of the room where the movement has been detected. It's really cool and all of this aims to let you forget about your network setup."

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Two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar will be joining Plume again this year for our ride. If you are cycling with us in September, the #PSCC24 route will start in Zurich, Switzerland and take riders through the Alps and Dolomites to Venice, Italy. We will cover a distance of 824 km, climbing more than 15,000 meters across mountain peaks including Pordoi Pass, Falzarego Pass and Monte Zoncolan. Learn more about the brave individuals training to join our ride - and sponsor them here.

Sponsorship information for our Corporate Partnership packages, as well as additional information about #PSCC24, can be found at PlumeStrong.

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