Home IBC 2018 AirTies: managing Wi-Fi performance becomes ever-more critical as connected devices proliferate

AirTies: managing Wi-Fi performance becomes ever-more critical as connected devices proliferate

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As more and more operators opt to choose Android TV, how can they differentiate their services and products from other operators who’ve done the same thing? At IBC, Wi-Fi Mesh solutions provider Airties was demonstrating its solution: differentiate using products that focus on managing Wi-Fi quality in the home.

Philippe Alcaras, AirTies CEO, points out that one of the Android boxes it was demonstrating on its stand – the Air 7430 4K STB – is one “like you would see pretty much everywhere else, except that our box has the function of being a Wi-Fi access point – so you have two devices in one.”

The rationale is that when today’s consumers sit in front of their TV set, they are probably also interacting with other portable devices like tablets and smartphones at the same time – and in all likelihood their connected box (increasingly a 4K-capable one) will also be using Wi-Fi instead of an Ethernet connection. “All of which is to say that the wireless experience in the living-room needs to be perfect,” Alcaras concludes – a good rationale for making an Android STB the vehicle that can achieve that.

AirTies can also supply operators with solutions for optimising and managing the whole domestic Wi-Fi environment, whether Android or not – and their latest version of this – a new, premium in-home Wi-Fi service dubbed WIFIX – was also being demonstrated at IBC. Norwegian fibre-based broadband and content provider Get is one of the first operators to offer the new subscription-based solution to its customers, which uses AirTies’ Mesh Extenders and the access nodes in their boxes to create an intelligent Wi-Fi mesh network that automatically and dynamically ‘steers’ consumers’ connected devices to the best available access point, channel, and band – significantly increasing wireless access speeds.

At Get, WIFIX runs alongside AirTies’ Remote Manager product, a Wi-Fi optimisation suite that monitors in-home Wi-Fi performance to improve the customer experience, and which is supported by Wi-Fi enabled devices such as its Air 7430 4K STB. Alcaras reckons this cloud-based solution currently monitors around 100 million devices. Although the detail of the data is of course proprietary to the operators who use it, AirTies’ chief marketing officer Oz Yildirim says it is possible to share some high-level trends.

One is that the average number of wireless connected devices in the home is increasing and now stands at between eight and nine. “We’re seeing these devices are connected to Wi-Fi on average about 10 hours every day. […] And we are also seeing these devices are downloading about 1.5GB of data per device per day. […] You’re talking about 12 to 13GB per day per household.”

None of this takes account of proliferating IoT devices, which currently use low-power, shorter range wireless standards such as Zigbee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth. But Alcaras points out that the new IEEE 802.11ax Wi-Fi standard will encompass new lower power functions that will enable many 2.4GHz IoT devices to operate over the in-home Wi-Fi network. “Low-power Wi-Fi will become a reality,” he predicts, “so we believe that Wi-Fi not only is crucial for connectivity in the home today, but it’s going to be even more so in the future.”

For AirTies, this signifies that in-home Wi-Fi management and making the process transparent to service providers is “a new, very important focus for us – understanding what’s happening inside the home, giving real-time visibility to the service provider: ‘What devices are being used, what type of traffic are we getting? Are we getting 4K video or just social media video?’”

Since about 30-40% of the calls service-providers receive from customers are Wi-Fi related, “this is a huge pain point for them,” says Yildirim, “and today, they have almost no visibility inside the home.” The key objective of a monitoring and management system is to “avoid these calls in the first place, if possible. But if not, enable call centres to pinpoint what is actually wrong in the home.” Since the system stores historical data, call centres are able to deal with non-live issues, such as poor quality on a movie being streamed the previous night.

Yildirim says that by looking at the data churned out by its monitoring system, Airties is now also able to make “pro-active recommendations to service providers, because we know what’s happening inside the home.” These could involve telling them that a particular customer looks like running out of bandwidth, and might be prepared to pay for a faster service, for example. In a 11,000-home trial of the system, he points out, 27% of the households needed their Wi-Fi upgrading.

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