Towards Managed Home Wi-Fi

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Home Wi-Fi is seeing a spree of announcements from the different players announcing new products and customer deployments to solve the home Wi-Fi experience puzzle, that is poor coverage in a context of increasing demand for capacity by more users and connected devices.

Machine Learning

Quantenna released their Vision cloud-based platform aimed at helping their OEM customer to fasten their time to market. ViSiON is a cloud-based service for Quantenna enabled devices to accelerate service provider deployments by using advanced analytics. ViSiON has been deployed in over 10 million nodes. It provides real-time monitoring of Wi-Fi devices from lab introduction to mass deployment, as well as remote debugging and fine-tuning capabilities.

Quantenna’s head of marketing Ambroise Popper told Maravedis, the company has experienced demand from service providers and OEMs for a tool like ViSiON to reduce the time to troubleshoot software bugs and leverage data from the large footprint of Home Gateways, Repeaters and Set-top boxes in customer homes dynamically.

A few days later, Adaptive Spectrum and Signal Alignment Inc (Assia) announced Telefonica announce widespread deployment of ASSIA’s CloudCheck® software solution across Telefonica’s Latin American Networks. This cloud-based product manages Wi-Fi at customer premises with diagnostics and optimization for improved performance to Telefonica’s home base of broadband subscribers.

“Telefonica is transforming its operations towards an optimal Customer Experience. In this transformation process, it is key for us to move from a network approach to a service-customer-centric focus approach; from reactive to proactive processes,” said Eduardo de Santos, Customer Service Delivery Director, Global Network & Systems, Telefonica SA.

Still under embargo as we close the edition of this newsletter, XCellAir is being acquired by one known Wi-Fi technology supplier. XCellAir has developed cloud-based self-organizing network (SON) and radio resource management (RRM) technologies that provide quality control Wi-Fi networks, providing network-wide visibility, QoE analytics and remote diagnostic and debugging capabilities.

I also had the pleasure to deploy Plume in my home environment with 6 nodes covering different areas of my apartment has a very challenging RF environment with walls and corridors obstructing Wi-Fi signals and I don’t believe a second AP alone would have done the job. The Plume system is easy to install, configure and manage. The performance so far has been great with good coverage in every room and area in each of the 6 pods. The application is easy to use and provides great information on throughput and usage. I also liked the easy to use guest Wi-Fi feature!

The interesting aspect of Plume is that even if the main access point from the ISP broadcasts operates only at 2.4GHz, the pods can still use the 5GHz to backhaul and mesh each other.  The Pods use both 5G and 2.4G to form the backhaul. Plume does not use standard “mesh” implementation which would require all APs to be on the same channel, which reduces the network capacity with multiple hops. So traditional “mesh” is not scalable to more than a few hops.

Plume Application screenshot

Mesh and multi AP Wi-Fi

Given that mesh is essential for solving the Wi-Fi QoS problem and is also complex to tune for optimal performance, capacity and resiliency, it has become a hotbed of competition and innovation drawing in at least 70 vendors, with leaders including Linksys, Netgear, Mojo Networks, Cisco, Meraki, HP’s Aruba, Zebra Technologies, Meru, Ruckus, Eero and Ubiquity, besides AirTies.

Complementary technologies have also evolved to exploit features of Wi-Fi, notably band steering to route traffic between the two current spectral bands, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, and client steering to connect clients to the optimum AP on the basis of signal strength and current traffic load.

It is true that most support the IEEE 802.11s standard for mesh, but this only covers link level communication within a point-to-point Wi-Fi network so that different vendors’ devices can participate in a given mesh implementation. This has led to demand for higher level mesh standards and the next step is currently being plotted by several standards groups on the video side, such as CableLabs, as well as the Wi-Fi Alliance. This is leading towards a standard AP Coordination Protocol, which may end up being called Multipath AP. It has been knocking around at least a decade in academic circles but has only in the last couple of years been taken up urgently by the standards bodies.

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Mr. Fellah, is a Senior Analyst and founder of Maravedis with 20-year experience in the wireless industry. He authored various landmark reports on Wi-Fi, LTE, 4G and technology trends in various industries including retail, restaurant and hospitality. He is regularly asked to speak at leading wireless and marketing events and to contribute to various influential portals and magazines such as RCR Wireless, 4G 360, Rethink Wireless, The Mobile Network, Telecom Reseller to name a few. He is a Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) and Certified Wireless Technology Specialist (CWTS).

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