NBN Co is hoping to add a “tool, firmware agent, or feature” to wi-fi gateways in selected people’s homes to collect telemetry that can help it troubleshoot the in-home portion of internet connections.
The trial is set to last between two and three months, according to an NBN Co spokesperson, and could involve upwards of 5000 users.
It is being officially called the ‘Managed Wi-Fi trial’, suggesting that it could ultimately be packaged up as a service and used more broadly throughout the NBN footprint.
“The purpose of this test is to gather insights from customers and end users in relation to the end user wi-fi environment and RSP [retail service provider wi-fi solution to better identify, diagnose and remediate wi-fi related issues in the premises,” NBN Co said in test documents. [pdf]
“RSP wi-fi solution means the tool, firmware agent, or feature deployed or to be deployed on end user premises equipment (CPE) wi-fi gateways which is designed to improve identification, diagnosis and remediation of CPE and wi-fi related issues in the premises for the purposes of this test.”
RSPs that participate in the trial will need to nominate one gateway device model that they - or the maker - can push firmware updates to during the test period.
They can use an existing “tool, firmware agent or feature” that they have already developed, or one created specifically for the NBN trial.
The trial comes just months after the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) commissioned its own tests of modems and wi-fi gateways used by fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) and fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) customers.
The ACMA found "a very wide variation in wi-fi performance capabilities offered across [a] range of  devices” and said “this is likely to lead to some degree of consumer frustration” among NBN users.
It also found that “a large number of devices have 2.4 GHz wi-fi that is incapable of supporting the higher data rates currently offered by FTTN/B NBN services.
“In fact, some of the devices tested were barely capable of supporting the lower data rates offered by certain FTTN/B NBN services,” the ACMA said.
The ACMA noted that better wi-fi performance in the home was likely to lead to better perception of NBN services.
That’s something NBN Co has suspected for at least the past two years; the company has made no secret that it believes in-home wiring is part of the reason that some customers don’t see sufficient NBN speeds.
Extending that thinking to wireless networking in the home is a logical extension in that regard.
“NBN Co has been very clear about our plans to improve customer experience by listening to what customers want and need, and by working in collaboration with our retail partners, the industry, regulators and the government to deliver on those promises,” an NBN Co spokesperson told iTnews.
“We’ve got a number of initiatives in train, including this trial to work with our retail partners to investigate the feasibility of a wi-fi software tool would help the identification, diagnosis and remediation of wi-fi related issues.
“This two-to-three month trial is intended to test the capabilities and feasibility of the wi-fi software tool in improving connection reliability and ultimately customer experience.”