Home Analysis Fixing Wi-Fi, the new weak link in broadband

Fixing Wi-Fi, the new weak link in broadband

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Bülent Çelebi, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of AirTies, sets out in this first of a series of blogs how operators can guarantee the best QoS over Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi has become established as the new last mile in most developed markets and has become the main bottleneck constricting broadband performance. This is causing problems for broadband operators both through increasing help desk support costs incurred by users with Wi-Fi issues and through outright cancelling of services if these problems are not fixed. The underlying issue is that operators are being caught between a rock and a hard place as consumers hold them accountable for a network over which at least until now they have had little or no control.

Fortunately AirTies has been aware of this impending crunch for several years and has developed technology that mitigates it. The essential idea is to provide the best of both worlds so that operators can monitor and troubleshoot Wi-Fi problems remotely while consumers still have freedom to configure the network as they want. In many cases we believe there will be a spirit of partnership between consumers and their broadband providers given that they have a mutual vested interest in ensuring a continuous high quality experience at all parts of the house and garden.

In the meantime though many operators are finding that their efforts to compete over headline broadband speeds are being undermined by the failure of Wi-Fi to sustain these in the home. This was reflected in a recent comprehensive survey by Arris of 19,000 households from 19 leading countries, finding that almost two thirds (63%) of consumers  reported some Wi-Fi performance or reliability issues.

It is important to bear in mind that the new last mile is not just Wi-Fi but also embraces low power wireless networks, notably Bluetooth LE, ZigBee and Z-Wave, which raise slightly different issues. The key challenge lies in getting them all to work together and backing them up over a common home backhaul network. At AirTies we have been assessing what role we can play within this low power wireless space. We see an opportunity mapping all these different protocols to say either a remote Cloud or a local UI. We will be working on a number of problems that need to be solved for low-power networks as the Internet of Things evolves.

In the short term though our main focus is on Wi-Fi and how we can enable performance equivalent or superior to the best wired options in the home, while enjoying the convenience of wireless. To achieve this AirTies has developed our Mesh technology combined with Client Steering, which between them cater for homes of all sizes and building constructions. The Mesh component replaces the traditional hub and spoke arrangement of Wi-Fi in which a single AP (Access Point) can become a choke point in the network since all data goes through it. Then Client Steering hands over control over which path each client takes to the network, so that the whole domain can be optimized for the benefit of all devices rather than having individual ones effectively competing among themselves.

We appreciate that operators will want firm evidence that our Mesh and Client Steering technology really do deliver the performance and reliability that we promise. Therefore we have conducted extensive field trials that back up our claims with real world data, which we will be presenting and explaining in future blogs.

Meanwhile we are now starting to see our Wi-Fi technologies being integrated into CPE so that operators can deliver multiscreen, multi-room TV services with 4K streaming wirelessly out of the box. We are also seeing, especially in the US, a mounting consensus that Wi-Fi has become a serious issue. Other regions are starting to follow suit and we believe that within a year all major operators will be evaluating, promoting and deploying technologies that enable secure and consistent Wi-Fi performance so that their broadband speeds are sustained continuously right to the end device.

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