Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh is the standards initiative from the Wi-Fi Alliance that enables home Wi-Fi networks to combine gateways and access points, like Wi-Fi extenders, from multiple vendors, including those supplied by a broadband provider and those bought via retail. The Wi-Fi Alliance announced this week that EasyMesh is available for use.
Broadcom immediately announced that it has coupled its Wi-Fi silicon platforms with a Wi-Fi Easy Mesh certifiable software solution to create the Broadcom SmartMesh family of products, and ARRIS revealed that its HomeAssure whole-home Wi-Fi solution will support the Wi-Fi Alliance Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh programme. This means ARRIS gateway and Wi-Fi extender products will be compliant. AirTies said it will certify products in the near future. The SoC providers Intel and Marvell are among other companies that support the standard.
Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh is based on the Multi-Access Point (AP) specification, which is designed to simplify the installation of home networks that require more than one Wi-Fi access point (e.g. gateways/routers/extenders) to deliver good wireless coverage. The Multi-AP specification is also designed to support better Wi-Fi monitoring and management in the home. EasyMesh is designed so that all devices become part of a unified network.
The ‘Wi-Fi CERTIFIED’ seal of approval from the Wi-Fi Alliance means that products have proven interoperability and backwards compatibility, so any gateways and extenders should be able to communicate with each other, regardless of who they are manufactured by. This will give service providers more freedom when selecting their vendors (for devices they supply to subscribers).
It will also encourage a retail market for Wi-Fi extenders, which are going to become an increasingly important device as streaming video proliferates and consumers look for perfect coverage and picture quality in any room.
Cornel Ciocirlan, CTO for EMEA at ARRIS, expects the standards initiative to grow the market for extenders and this will include a retail market where consumers can decide the type they want, based on performance and price, and also their preference for whether they want a smaller number of more powerful devices or a greater number of lower-power devices.
The Wi-Fi Alliance points out that customers will be able to seamlessly add an appropriate number of Wi-Fi EasyMesh access points to provide the necessary full home coverage. This could mean adding devices over time, of course. Prabhu Loganathan, Senior Director of Marketing, Wireless Connectivity Business Unit at SoC maker Marvell, predicts EasyMesh will help his customers (CPE manufacturers) to develop differentiated products.
WK Tan, Vice President and General Manager at Intel’s Connected Home Division, reckons EasyMesh and its multi-vendor interoperability will help drive down operational costs for service providers. He is convinced it will ensure a better consumer experience, too. “Mesh Wi-Fi networks are growing in popularity, since they give consumers what they want: fast, reliable connectivity in all corners of the home,” he said in support of the Wi-Fi Alliance’s announcement this week.
Multi-AP networks have to be self-organising which, among other things, means multiscreen devices (e.g. a tablet, laptop or smartphone) can be told to swap access points in order to improve their signal. Wi-Fi EasyMesh is about a lot more than creating a plug-and-play scenario for hardware, therefore. It also supports the management and monitoring interoperability that will ensure networks can self-adapt, report, troubleshoot and so on.
This Wi-Fi network management is one of the places where ARRIS believes it can add value, in addition to supplying operators with EasyMesh-compatible hardware (gateways and extenders). ARRIS HomeAssure adds the essential intelligence for automated network optimisation on top of the monitoring and control mechanisms provided by Multi-AP. The company’s gateways contain the intelligence to make local decisions about when a tablet streaming session (e.g. when watching Netflix) should switch from one access point to another as someone walks between rooms, as one example of this decision making. This particular capability is known as client steering).
A local client steering decision, without reference to the cloud, minimises latency. Other network decisions will be taken in the cloud. The ARRIS management software can be used to direct the activities across a Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh home network, including one that uses extenders that are not provided by the company.
“Making these home networks work, and doing it in a secure way, is not easy. Today there are different protocols for monitoring, and different ways to upload information to the cloud in order to gain insights about performance on the network. If that is all fragmented, it does not help anyone,” Ciocirlan declares, providing an insight into why ARRIS supports the new standard.
Ciocirlan has been worried about the Wi-Fi market diverging, with different, incompatible solutions. “That is not good for consumers, vendors or operators,” he says.This standardisation initiative reflects the extent to which home Wi-Fi has become an integral part of a service offering, he observes.
ARRIS will enable extender configuration, client steering and Wi-Fi analytics in products it is submitting for Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh certification.
Liberty Global has announced its support for Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh. Peter Joyce, Director of Connectivity, CPE Architecture, at the pan-European cable giant says it will provide an opportunity to further improve customer satisfaction relating to home Wi-Fi. “We support a standardised approach to delivering a consistent solution for multiple access point Wi-Fi networks.”
The initiative has the backing of another important multi-AP Wi-Fi solutions vendor, AirTies. The company’s CTO, Metin Taskin, says: “Many of the world’s leading service providers rely on our managed Wi-Fi mesh solutions, including software, devices and cloud-based performance management. We are always interested in participating in initiatives that serve the interests of our customers. We applaud the Wi-Fi Alliance efforts to launch the Wi-Fi EasyMesh certification programme.”
CableLabs played an active role in the research and standardisation process of Wi-Fi EasyMesh. “With the launch of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh, consumers and operators will have the assurance of interoperability and coordination between access points for faster and more reliable Wi-Fi throughout the home,” says John Bahr, Lead Architect, Wireless R&D at CableLabs.