Takeaways for the customer from Tech Support

I have been in the ISP industry for close to thirty years now. One thing that has changed very little is the customer side of technical support. What I mean by this is, no matter if it is dial-up or fiber optic, customers will still have issues. They will still need to occasionally call their ISP for support in one fashion or another. This article is to hammer home how you the customer should always have something positive they walk away with, even if you can not solve their problem right away.

Duh! you say. This is common sense, you say. After seeing many posts from technicians, I have come to realize technical support folks fall into a rut. Let’s face, being on the front line of technical support operations is brutal. From the irate customers to the ones who can’t turn on their computer, it is stressful. It takes a unique mindset to be able to do technical support. When I managed a team of customer representatives back in the dial-up days, I had one very strict rule.

At the end of every interaction with the customer give them something positive to walk away with

You hope each time the positive is you fixed their issue(s). That is always the goal. If you can’t give them a clear resolution you should always give the customer a time for the next contact and something you are going to be doing for them in the meantime. Let’s go into some scenarios below.

You determine the customer had a bad CPE/NID, etc.
What you want to be able to do is give the customer a timeframe at the very least of when a technician can be at their place, or a new unit mailed to them.
“Let’s schedule a time we can get someone out there”
“Scheduling will be calling you in the next couple of hours to schedule a service call”
“I will get a new unit in the mail to you in Today’s/Tomorrow’s mail”

Each of the above gives the customer something concrete they can expect. It might not be the answer they want to hear, but it gives them something that is a step toward resolving their issues.

The customer has an issue on their end (bad computer, bad router that isn’t yours, etc)
Reinforce with the customer you are not abandoning them, just have exhausted your avenues of resolution.
“I think it might be your computer. I can give you the names of some computer repair shops in your area. Once they take a look we are here to make sure you get back online.
“I think your router may be bad. We bypassed it and things are working. I would suggest a new router. We have a guide or can help you once you have the new one.

In each of these cases, the key is to let the customer you are not pushing off the problem. It is something you can not fix and is impeding you from helping them.

One of the phrases I heard on a message board from an ISP was “Don’t call us again if you have this problem.” I know sometimes this can be said in jest, and to the right customer, you are okay. But normally, this is something you should never say to a customer. It gives them the impression you do not want to help them anymore. I often see this used in the content of a recurring problem, usually at the customer’s own doing.

What you want to say is. If this happens again here are the steps you need to do on your own. This will save you time as you won’t have to call us. If you still need to call us after you have done this feel free.

So remember, when talking to customer’s give them something they can either look forward to or something they can do if you can’t fix it in one interaction. Give them a positive takeaway with defined goals or time.


PTP Backhaul Complete link kit #1

I have been asked a few times on what I would pick for a PTP link. here is what I would recommend as option #1.  You can use the RF Elements link planner to judge how far you can go. If you want to dive deeper you can use the Cambium LinkPlanner, which is a download. This is an unlicensed 5GH link. if you want some real-world data on this link you can visit https://blog.j2sw.com/xisp/the-addition-of-rf-elements-horns-to-a-ptp550-link/

2x Cambium PTP 550
https://www.ispsupplies.com/Cambium-Networks-C050055H001A
PTP 550 Data Sheet

 

 

 

2x RF Elements Ultrahorn
https://www.ispsupplies.com/RF-Elements-UH-CC-5-24
Ultrahorn Data Sheet

 

 

4x LMR Jumpers
https://www.ispsupplies.com/NM-NM-L4-36

 

 

 

8x Cold Shrink
https://www.ispsupplies.com/COLDSHRINK-12MDN

 

 

There are several other distributors to buy from as well. I choose ISP supplies because they refer business to me and do not have a consulting program that competes with my services.

 

How many customers on an ap? wrong question

Several years ago, I did an article on How many customers can I fit on an AP? I figured with the introduction of MU-MIMO and other things, it was time for an update. Several concepts still apply, but we now have Multi-User MIMO, better filtering, and better technology. One of the biggest questions I hear is, “How many customers can I put on an Access point?”. In this article, I will explain some of the ways to answer this question. Some of this will be geared toward certain products but will be an overall way of answering the question.

Thinking in terms of how many customers you can put on an Access Point is flawed thinking. What you really should be thinking of is how much capacity do I have to sell on an AP. From this, you can apply a formula to know how many customers an Access Point can support with quantifiable data.

Firstly, some things to know.  This article applies to mainly point-to-multipoint radios.  Most of your multipoint radios you come across are half-duplex radios.  The radios receive or transmit, but not at the same time. The over the air rate vs. real throughput come into play as a result. More on this later. Before we get into everything we have to know what affects the customer data rates.  I will break this into two sections. Ideal environment and the real world.

The Ideal Environment
This mainly has to do with radio specs and such.  You have channel width, data rates, and signal to noise to worry about.

Channel width is the first thing to consider. The bigger the channel, the more bits you can flow. If we want to use an analogy, we could compare this to a road or a water pipe. The bigger the road, the more cars that can drive down that road at faster speeds. A larger water pipe can flow more water. As with anything, there are drawbacks. The larger the channel, the more susceptible you are to interference.

Data rates and modulation are the next factors.  The higher the data rate the more capacity the client radio has.  Data rates are influenced by the channel width, radio limitations, and environmental factors.  Think of data rates as the top speed of your client radios. Just like a car road conditions are a huge influencer.

Signal to noise is one of the most critical factors overlooked. I have included this in the ideal and real-world sections for a couple of essential reasons. In the ideal environment, radio manufacturers publish the signal to noise needed to achieve max modulation. Modulation should be looked at first when it comes to a radio not performing as well as it should. The first thing I always look at is what is the current signal to noise.  For example, a Cambium 450M (Medusa) access point states,in the Spec sheet, that in order to achieve an 8x modulation, which is 256QAM you have to have a signal to noise ratio of 32dB.  This chart means if your noise floor is a -80, you have to have a signal of *at least* -48.  In the real world, this isn’t always achievable. Physics can fickle that way. If you want to geek on what QAM is you can watch the following video

The real-world environment
As many of you know the real world can be totally different than the lab environment.  Let’s discuss some factors which can alter the modulation rates, which then affect your overall throughput on an AP.

RF Landscape of a link

The RF “landscape” is the most significant influencer. In other words, how noisy is the spectrum? How many other devices does your access point “hear”? I always use the crowded room analogy. If you have a couple of people in a room, it’s easy to hear them and more comfortable to talk faster (modulation rate). As more people enter the room, you have to find a corner with a smaller group to talk (change channels). As the room becomes even more crowded, you have to speak a little slower because those around you are noisy and a distraction. Your modulation rate has to lower to have an intelligent conversation.

Line of sight is the next major issue. If a customer has any obstruction between them and the AP, the modulation level to drop because it has to deal with the extra noise. This is simple physics. Not only does the signal get degraded if it has to pass through objects or even dense air, but it is also deflected. This deflection is referred to as multipath. Other factors that influence modulation are the quality of antennas, the quality of any cables between the antenna and the AP, environmental factors such as bodies of water, and many other items. these are beyond the scope of this article.

On to determining the total capacity of an AP

Let’s take a Cambium ePMP 3000 ap as an example. This is a 4X4 Multi-User MIMO radio.   What this means is it can transmit four streams to a user at once.  This increases the bandwidth to the client. So where does the multi-user part come in? Most clients are not able to take advantage of the Access Point’s (AP) full capacity so the AP talks to multiple clients at once because it has the capacity to do so.

So let’s run some numbers.  The published spec sheet of an ePMP 3000 radio is a total capacity of 1.2 Gbps.  This radio is a TDD system. This means you over the air rate is half of your actual throughput due to the half-duplex nature of the radio.  It can only send or receive at one time, not both.

Now that we know our radio will do approximately 600 megs of capacity minus some overhead we can factor in oversubscription.

Oversubscription
Oversubscribing in the ISP world has been going on since the dial-up days. When managed properly, it is not a bad thing. The theory is that not every user is online at the same time doing the same things. Out of ten households doing things on the Internet at any given moment in time, you may have three or four streaming Netflix, two watching Youtube videos, three checking Instagram/Facebook/Twitter, and one just reading webpages. Let’s say each of them is paying for a 25 meg down by 5 meg up speed package. Out of those 10 accounts the Netflix streamers may be using 5 megs, the Youtube watchers may be using 3, and the rest are using a combined 5 meg. Out of 250 megs of sold capacity, those 10 accounts only use 31 megs at that point in time. Out of those users, only the streaming services are using that bandwidth the most. In an earlier article, I did a video on a Netflix stream at my house. As customer plans have more bandwidth available, they are grabbing data less frequently because they can grab bigger chunks at a time. This blog post illustrates this as well as this video

Here is where oversubscription becomes a moving target. Not every household is the same. Some may have two or three devices that stream at the same time.  Some may only have one.  Some may watch streaming services very little.

So how do you plan for oversubscription?
In today’s world of streaming a 3:1 oversubscription ratio is a pretty safe bet.  Depending on your customers you might be able to go 4:1, 5:1, or even more.  The faster your plans the less time the customer gets on and off the connection.

Formula
So let’s put it all together.
600 megs of AP capacity at a 1:1 ratio
1200 megs of AP capacity at a 2:1 ratio
1800 megs of AP capacity at a 3:1 ratio

For easy figuring, we will say we are selling 20 meg packages.
1:1 we can sell 30 20 meg packages
2:1 we can sell 60 20 meg packages

Will these numbers hold up in the real world? In most cases, they will not due to the real world conditions mentioned earlier in this article.  If you keep all of your customers at high MCS rates you should expect 70-80 percent capacity numbers in a real-world scenario.  Your mileage may vary. So let’s adjust our numbers.

70 percent of 600 megs is 420 megs
420 at 1:1
840 at 2:1
1260 at 3:1

Those same 20 meg packages
1:1 we can sell 21
2:1 we can sell 42
3:1 we can sell 63

Is the above formula absolute? It is just designed to give you an idea. The following link was published today. it shows 72 ePMP clients on a single AP. As I have stated the client connection isn’t the whole story.  Look at the throughput running through the AP to illustrate the formula is highly dependent on your customers and how they use the service. Remember when I talked about channel width and data rates? Pay attention to these in the video.

In conclusion think of how much capacity you have on an Access Point instead of just customer numbers.  The numbers can be impressive, as in the above video, but don’t tell the entire story.  Customer counts on an AP are nice to know and you can take the above formula to determine how many you can put on at what levels.

#packetsdownrange #epmp #rfelements #cambium

 

 

 

Netflix, IPV6, and affects of queing

While trying to get my Playstation to download the latest “No Man’s Sky” download quicker I figured I would share a little torch action.  This is showing my wife’s Ipad talking to Netflix while she is watching a streaming TV show. Keep in mind this is just an Ipad, not some 4k TV.

Some things to note as you watch this (no sound).

1.Uncapped the connection bursts to 50-60+ megs.
2.The slower your que the connection the more time it spends downloading data.  At slower ques the bursts last longer.
3.If you are handing out IPv6 to customers you should be queing them as well.

Just something to quick and dirty to keep in mind.

UBNT Unifi upgrade issues

Recently my best friend installed some unifi access points in his home.  We had ordered a 60W unifi switch, a couple of AP-LR, and a couple of AC-Lites.  These were ordered and sat for several months until we could get around to installing them.  Upon installation, the AC Lites were adopted and had to go through the normal upgrades to bring them up to the latest version.

However, the AP-LRs were used and had very old firmware on them and would not upgrade properly. They would adopt but not upgrade.  We fixed this in the following ways.
1. We Factory reset the APs. At this point, they grabbed DHCP from the local network. Quick ssh into the AP verified it had internet connectivity.

2. I was able to find some old firmware on the UBNT web-site.  We issued the following command to each LR AP

upgrade http://dl.ubnt.com/unifi/firmware/BZ2/3.7.58.6385/BZ.ar7240.v3.7.58.6385.170508.0942.bin

the “HTTP” is important to note.  If you copy the link directly from the UBNT website it has https in it.  The older firmware blows an error due to invalid certs (fixed in newer versions).

Once it came back we were able to upgrade from the controller.

Some Mikrotik SXT photos and first thoughts.

I have been wanting to do some photos and thoughts on the Mikrotik SXTR-LTEs and other Mikrotik LTE products. I recently fired one up using dual sims. One is from Tmobile and one is from At&T.  Verizon is pretty nonexistent in my area. I am about 2.5 miles away from a Tmobile tower and about a mile from a fiber-fed AT&T monopole.

As you notice in the following photo I am pretty buried in trees.

My view of the tower. Notice the high-tech holder.

Some initial notes.  Setup of LTE is a very easy process as far as the mikrotik is concerned.  I literally had to put in some information in the APN and that was it as far as LTE goes.  I did set up standard Mikrotik stuff (DHCP server, security, etc.).

Adding the second sim card can be a huge pain due to the location of the sim card slot.  Luckily I had some tweezers that were angled to be able to slide the card in the slot.  These were part of a dental kit I picked up off Amazon for releasing stuck SFPs and the like.

Look for a more in-depth series on Mikrotik LTE coming soon.

Atheral recommended 499 fillng help

Our friends over at Atheral have some companies to help you with your 499 filings.

What is FCC Form 499‑A?
FCC form 499‑A must be filed by interstate or international telecommunications providers in the US to register for the Universal Service Fund and report their revenue. You’ll have the form 499‑A immediately inside your registered agent account with our DC agent information pre-populated on it immediately after signing up for our DC registered agent service.

Inteserra Consulting Group:  https://www.inteserra.com/tom-forte
Lerman Senter:  https://www.lermansenter.com/attorneys/stephen-e-coran/
Compliance Solutions: https://www.csilongwood.com/
Marashlian & Donahue, PLLC: https://commlawgroup.com/