With the recent expansion of high-speed broadband and fiber internet into the residential space, more cable ISP customers are channeling their inner Tom Cruise and feeling the need for speed. They’re connecting more devices to their cable internet and streaming more content than ever before.

This has been a boon for forward-planning cable companies as more customers are signing up for plans advertising speeds up to 300Mbps. But it’s also causing a growing customer service issue: Many high-speed internet customers are saddled with outdated equipment that can’t handle all that speed coming into the home.

Most customers prefer high-speed Wi-Fi which has become table stakes in the ISP game. If they are signed up for high-speed internet but not getting the speeds they want from their Wi-Fi, you’ll have a customer service problem. Let’s dig into the nuts and bolts of the issue.

As you’re troubleshooting these types of issues with your clients, be sure to assess their usage and needs Click To Tweet

Promised speed vs. actual speed

Imagine this scenario: You arrive at a customer’s home after they’ve complained about their wireless network speed. They’re paying for a high-speed internet plan that promises 300Mbps. But, this is just the ceiling speed, or theoretical speed.

Of course, the connection is only as fast as the network equipment, such as the cable modem and Wi-Fi router. This particular customer has run their own speed tests and is upset to see they’re only getting wireless download speed of 20Mbps. In contrast to the theoretical speed they had been promised, 20Mbps is the actual speed they’re receiving through Wi-Fi.

DOCSIS standards and channels

The solution is ensuring the customer has a cable modem and wireless router that are properly matched with the level of broadband service coming into the home, as well as the usage needs of that customer.

DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) is the standard used by most cable modems, and there are three different levels: 1.x, 2.x, and 3.x. The higher the number, the greater the bandwidth it will support. DOCSIS 3.x modems can support downstream speeds between 170Mbs and 1Gbps, depending on the number of channels used.

DOCSIS 3.0 modems with eight channels will happily support 100Mbps internet service plans, and in some cases incorporate a router delivering steady Wi-Fi speeds closer to the promised speed coming into the home.

For those seeking maximum performance, a DOCSIS 3.1 modem with 24 download channels will support ISP plans of 300Mbps or more, even with a large number of users using the Wi-Fi network to do things like stream Netflix and play online video games.

Matching the modem and router to the broadband service

All of the above implies that ISP customers who are unhappy with their Wi-Fi speeds need new equipment. This might be the best solution in some cases. However, sometimes ISP customers are simply unhappy that the broadband speed they’re paying for isn’t what they receive through Wi-Fi. The solution may be to downgrade to a lower-speed (and cheaper) plan that matches their existing Wi-Fi equipment.

Remember that, for most households, 100Mbps internet speeds are more than sufficient. Streaming HD content on Netflix, for instance, requires about 5Mbps, while streaming 4K content on the same service only requires about 25Mbps. As you’re troubleshooting these types of issues with your clients, be sure to assess their usage and needs before jumping to the conclusion that a more expensive modem is required. You may be in a position to save the customer money, month over month, while simultaneously solving their speed frustrations.