Installing customer premise equipment (CPE) is an essential part of providing internet services. There are so many variables when it comes to installations, though—everything from the equipment itself to the terrain internet service providers (ISPs) must navigate.
Since no two scenarios are alike, it is difficult to list universally applicable tips. But for someone like TurnkeyISP CEO David Dean, who has been in the industry for a decade and has taken part in over 7,000 internet installations, there’s a deep enough well of experience to draw at least three widely applicable best practices.
“This is what I’m doing right now: I’m walking on a roof and I’m looking for towers.” As luck would have it, David was in the middle of an installation when he answered the phone to chat with the Vilo team about CPE installation practices.
David founded three companies in the wireless internet service provider (WISP) industry; Sundial Communications in 2014, ISPApp in 2019, and TurnkeyISP in 2020. The latter is a fully remote ISP call center and remote staffing agency that focuses on helping smaller ISPs “scale up [their] business while maintaining the responsive and friendly customer service that made [them] successful.”
David also built TurnkeyISP’s “on-demand remote support teams,” to remotely assist WISP installation crews. So, from the man himself, here are three best practices for installing CPE.
1. The internet installer position is key
While it may sound obvious to say, David emphasized the importance of having a competent internet installer. “The internet installer position seems like a pretty easy position, but it’s not,” David says. “There are various aspects of the position.”
David noted how an installer must be above average in several areas including work ethic, physical abilities, technical knowledge, and customer service. “And individually those are all common,” he adds. “But when you combine all of those into a single person, it becomes actually a pretty rare set of traits.”
If an installer is lacking in any aspect, crucial components could be missed, and the risk of dissatisfying customers increases, so it’s imperative to have a pro fill the role.
2. Make the installer’s job as easy as possible
Since proficient installers are hard to come by, David notes how their rarity makes them expensive, which leads us to our second best practice: Make the installer’s job as easy as possible. David was adamant that “anything that can be done remotely, should be done remotely.” This frees up your local team to work on the physical tasks and not be encumbered by auxiliary tasks.
Explaining how this principle applies to tower top-hands too, he continues, “Anything that can be done on the ground, should be done on the ground.” Lightening the load of the tower top-hand helps them focus on what they are supposed to do.
“And if it doesn’t need to be done at all, then don’t do it,” he laughs.
Automation is another excellent way to make the installer’s job easier. On the topic of automation, David mentioned Vilo’s appealing “plug and play” component and how it eliminates certain steps for the installer.
“WISPs are using 5 GHz frequencies to bring internet to the property,” he says, “and if Vilo Living can separate the channels automatically—wireless backhauling within the mesh system without stepping on the wireless feed—there’s value in that because right now, most installers have that as one more step that they have to accomplish. So they have to set the local Wi-Fi to not step on the internet feed.”
3. Understand what makes smaller ISPs special
The third best practice doesn’t involve any sort of physical ‘how-to’ nor is it about promoting a specific product. Instead, David focuses on the intrinsic side of being a smaller ISP. “This is the most important thing,” he says, “and that is helping WISPs understand why they’re special.”
When it comes to providing internet, mainstream ISPs like Comcast, Starlink, and T-Mobile have standardized everything. “So the role of the installer in Comcast is to go from point A to point B with a cable and plug in some equipment,” says David.
“In the case of Starlink and T-Mobile, they ship you a box and hope it works. It’s called ‘best effort’ service,” he added. “They’ll say, ‘if it works, great. If it doesn’t work, oh well; we tried. We gave it our best effort.’”
“But with wireless internet service providers, we’re engineering each connection, so that allows us to have guarantees that it’s going to work,” he continued.
In contrast to larger ISPs, David says that the “WISP industry does what it takes to make sure your internet service works. They provide a fully engineered wireless connection. They survey your property to figure out where they can best provide service to your property, and then they do a professional installation and they make sure that it works and it’s fully supported.”
“[And that’s] what WISPs can do to beat T-Mobile, Starlink, and Comcast,” he concludes.
When it comes to CPE internet installations, David Dean recommends hiring the best of the best for the installer position, making their job as easy as possible, and internalizing what sets WISPs and smaller ISPs apart from their bigger competitors—providing service where others can’t because they are willing to do what it takes to make sure their subscribers have reliable, high-speed internet service.
To learn more about how Vilo’s mesh Wi-Fi solutions can make your installations faster and easier, click here!
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