Why smart support tools make broadband providers greener

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November 18, 2020

As of July 2020, almost 4.57 billion people use the internet. That number is predicted to grow to 7.5 billion by 2030 – almost 90% of the world’s population. Driven by the rise of IoT (the Internet of Things) and 5G technology, projections show that the global Wi-Fi home router market will grow by over 4.4% every year from 2017-2025.

However, the ever-increasing worldwide demand for broadband routers comes at an environmental cost. In this blog, we’ll explore why broadband providers have a growing waste challenge on their hands, and how smart Wi-Fi troubleshooting tools can help.

The ecological issues of Wi-Fi routers  

Electronic consumer goods leave a large carbon footprint. Not just from the energy it takes to power them, but from the manufacturing process as well. 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from turning metal ores and fossil fuels into cars, washing machines, and other devices that we use every day.

Broadband routers are no different. Building each new router is an energy-intensive process, and they contain components that can have a substantial impact on the environment if they aren’t recovered and recycled. This includes mainboards, plastic chassis, and LEDs.

Then there are the ecological effects of supply chains to consider. Routers are often manufactured abroad and need to be shipped over, then delivered to warehouses and homes via domestic freight. The carbon impact of this can be enormous – shipping vessels create between 2-3% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite the environmental cost of making and distributing routers, millions are thrown away every year. They end up in landfills when they could be recycled or refurbished for further use. To reduce their carbon footprint, broadband providers need to find ways to keep this waste to a minimum. This sounds simple in theory, but operational challenges make the reality more complicated.


From living room to landfill why providers struggle with waste

Ideally, broadband providers should only issue new routers to customers as a last resort when the old router is no longer functional. But when an unhappy customer contacts the call center with an issue that the agent struggles to identify, sending out a replacement router is seen as a quick and easy way to keep the customer happy.

However, if the problem doesn’t lie with the router, which is often the case, sending out a new one fails to resolve it. This makes the customer even more frustrated, and a perfectly functional router has gone to waste. What’s more, many broadband providers don’t ask for the router back, and there’s no guarantee that the customer will return it or dispose of it responsibly.

Of course, there are broadband providers who do ask, or even actively incentivize, customers to return routers. For instance, Plusnet encourages customers to either return equipment for re-use or find their local electrical recycling center. BT has even started charging customers who don’t send equipment back after they’ve stopped using it. But reclaimed ‘no fault found’ routers end up collecting in large numbers at warehouses, with providers unsure of what to do with them.   

This is a problem that needs to be tackled at the source. If broadband providers want to improve their sustainability, they need to minimize the number of new routers sent out to customers who have equipment that can be easily repaired or isn’t faulty at all. This is where advanced Wi-Fi troubleshooting tools can help.


How Wi-Fi troubleshooting tools help providers become more eco-friendly

Next-gen remote and self-service support tools make solving issues simpler for both customers and support agents. These tools empower customers to troubleshoot common issues themselves with automated wi-fi diagnostics, rather than contacting support and being issued with a new device they don’t need.

Even if the customer does contact a call center, agents can use remote tools to offer more effective direct support. Communication is often a key barrier on these calls – if the agent can’t fully understand the issue that an agitated customer is trying to articulate, then they’re more likely to send out a new router as a catch-all solution. But with media sharing capabilities, agents can see exactly what the customer sees on the router and identify the problem much more easily – if there is one at all.

If both customers and agents are better equipped to resolve technical problems, you reduce the number of unnecessary replacement routers that are sent out. This means fewer units need to be manufactured, lowering the associated environmental costs.

By reducing the number of routers made, you also reduce the need to transport and deliver them across large distances, which means lower carbon emissions. Remote tools also help decrease emissions – when agents can support customers remotely, they don’t have to be physically sent round to fix issues, resulting in fewer truck rolls.


Making broadband provision more sustainable

Like all businesses, every broadband provider impacts the environment. And they have a responsibility to minimize that impact as much as possible.

The ecological impact of broadband routers might not be immediately obvious. But every functional or recyclable router that ends up in a landfill contributes to global e-waste. This is an issue that will only become more pressing as internet usage grows over the coming years.

By making it easy to resolve issues with smart support tools, providers can ensure people get as much life as possible out of their equipment and help make the world a less wasteful, more sustainable place.  


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