Everybody enjoys using a free, secure guest Wi-Fi network, and organizations that offer one earn customer goodwill.
That said, businesses that offer guest Wi-Fi face a tricky balance. On the one hand, they want customers to enjoy fantastic connectivity. On the other, they don’t want loiterers to “hog” bandwidth at the expense of everybody else who uses the service.
What’s perhaps worse is how Wi-Fi can “leak” outside of their business. While walls commonly define the physical boundaries of a brick-and-mortar establishment, the boundaries of a Wi-Fi network are nowhere near as easy to perceive.
These are just some of the issues Datavalet clients have expressed interest in finding a solution to. It’s a tricky problem to manage, as we explained in a recent press release: “One way to control usage is to set limits on how long people can stay connected and how much bandwidth they are allowed, but the difficulty with this approach is that it invariably diminishes the quality of the service for everyone.”
The challenge: how can a business please the majority of customers who respectfully use guest Wi-Fi while dissuading people from binge-watching their favorite TV shows on a guest network?
Datavalet clients define “fair use”
We tackled this matter by distinguishing between “use” and “abuse” of a guest Wi-Fi network using these three criteria:
- session duration (how long people use Wi-Fi)
- bandwidth consumption (how much data – download AND upload – people move through Wi-Fi)
- visit frequency (how often people visit a location and use its Wi-Fi)
Fair-Use Management – the basics
Datavalet technology enables us to:
- set the limits for all three criteria – session duration, bandwidth consumption and visit frequency – at whatever levels a client wants.
- match a device’s MAC address (i.e. its unique identifier) to its usage.
- produce reports using advanced analytics engines to flag devices that exceed the limits.
The above-listed tools form the foundation of Datavalet’s Fair-Use Management system.
How Datavalet clients can implement Fair-Use Management
There’s no set roadmap when it comes to using Fair-Use Management, but here’s one sequence to consider:
- Clients new to Fair-Use Management may want to generate reports on actual usage. This means not setting limits for session duration, bandwidth consumption or visit frequency - yet. By recording actual use over a set time period, the business accumulates enough data to decide what those limits should be.
- Once the data has been analyzed for potential “outlier” activity, as well as overall usage averages, the business can set limits on the three indicators.
- The Wi-Fi network can react to users who exceed these limits in several ways:
- At the gentle end of the reaction spectrum, the guest Wi-Fi network can display a warning message when a “limit exceeder” reconnects to the network. Messages like this are the equivalent of unmanned roadside vehicle speed indicators. They show people their actual speed and flash if the vehicle travels faster than the posted speed limit, but they don’t stop the vehicle.
- Businesses can add a Wi-Fi speed cap to the warning. This cap prevents excessive data usage and can discourage the abuser from continuing to “freeload” on the network.
- Temporary or permanent bans keep abusers off the Wi-Fi network for as long as Datavalet clients want. Multi-location clients can determine whether bans function at one or multiple locations.
Customers may react at any of these network actions. That’s why Datavalet offers call center services to manage customer Wi-Fi enquiries (so our clients don’t have to). Datavalet specialists can examine the reasons for the ban and determine how to handle the matter on our clients’ behalf.
Who does what in Fair-Use Management?
Let’s recap everybody’s roles:
- The client’s role is merely to set usage limits, in consultation with Datavalet.
- Datavalet takes care of the rest. We set usage limits. We create captive portals, “boilerplate” emails and other necessary messaging with our Fair-Use Management system. We developed our automated system in-house to perform most of the work on its own.
And we can adjust the system if need be.
The limits clients choose are not set in stone. Clients may receive feedback through customer comments and decide to revisit their chosen usage caps. Careful analysis of these and other pieces of gathered data can help business owners fine-tune the limits they use over time.
Welcoming guests comes at a cost. There’s no reason the majority of customers should pay that cost by accepting slow guest Wi-Fi performance due to the abuse of the network by only a few.
At Datavalet, we understand this. Fair Wi-Fi usage is for everybody. We’ve developed Fair-Use Management to keep the few bad Wi-Fi-using apples from spoiling the bushel.