EasyMesh is receiving a lot of buzz for good reason. With the shift to online services for voice, video, transactions, and managing the home, almost every household is seeking to get the best out of their home Wi-Fi network. In recent years, many have adopted mesh network devices to fill the holes in Wi-Fi coverage throughout their homes. In the past three years, PC Magazine tested and ranked 10 mesh devices from the well-known retail players such as Linksys, Netgear, Google, TP-Link, and Samsung. This creates a new challenge for internet service providers whose subscribers are defining their quality of experience based on their Wi-Fi performance. These various mesh devices are not interoperable, so to date, service providers cannot manage them or have had to lock themselves into a single mesh solution, which is far from ideal from a customer acquisition and satisfaction standpoint. ASSIA plans to give you and your subscribers more flexibility and choice as the EasyMesh standard evolves through releases, and gains acceptance and wide adoption.
From Extenders to Mesh
For many years, the option was to add extenders throughout the home. These were inexpensive devices scattered throughout the house that repeat or “boost” the Wi-Fi signal from the gateway. With a mesh network, the access points connect directly, dynamically, using a backhaul network to as many other access points as possible and efficiently route data from and to client devices. Well-designed mesh networks dynamically self-organize and self-configure which helps with workload distribution, fault tolerance, and maintenance. Yet if mesh nodes are in the wrong location, or are not properly configured, these advantages will not materialize, and the service provider will likely get the service call.
Enter EasyMesh, a standard from the Wi-Fi Alliance©, which will allows Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh™ devices to interoperate and be centrally controlled. EasyMesh R1 is now available with some devices certified, however a much richer set of features will be available from EasyMesh R2. While a draft of the new specification may be released this summer, it will not be completed until the end of 2019. So, should service providers wait or get started supporting mesh networks now? We at ASSIA believe you should start now, and we have a path for you to do it.
The Wi-Fi Alliance first released its EasyMesh R1 specification for multi-access point (MAP) networks in June 2018. The purpose of this specification is to enable interoperability across a MAP controller and Wi-Fi access points (APs) from different vendors in a Wi-Fi network deployment comprising multiple APs. This specification defines the control protocol between Wi-Fi® APs using IEEE 1905.1 Ethernet messaging across the premises LAN, as well as the data objects necessary to enable on-boarding, provisioning, control, and management of multiple APs. The specification also defines the mechanism to specify traffic routes between Wi-Fi access points within the multi-AP network. There are both a specification, and a test plan with compliance testing.
Other features specified in EasyMesh R1 are;
- Access point and station 802.11 capabilities (n, ac, ax) and supported rates, channels, power, bandwidths, number of spatial streams, short GI support and bands among other things
- Backhaul (AP to controller) 1905 topology, available MAC-layer throughput (up/down), percent link availability, and Received Channel Power Indicator (RCPI)
- Fronthaul (STA to AP) available MAC-layer throughput (up/down) and RCPI
- Unassociated STA MAC ID and Received Power (RCPI)
- Beacon reports from associated stations
- Station associations (client steering); control which AP a STA associates with
- Backhaul steering; backhaul STA to fronthaul AP
- Controller or AP can initiate steering
- Steering policy determines if RCPI based steering, or vendor-proprietary steering, is used. RCPI thresholds also set by steering policy
- Can do 802.11v steering if supported, otherwise by AP performing disassociation
Channel assignment and transmit power assignments
- Based on channel preference reports which list preferred channels, sent from APs to controller
Set reporting policies for steering and metrics reporting
EasyMesh R2 will contain four key categories of features; traffic control, security, spectrum optimization and additional diagnostics.
- Classify traffic to prioritize for QoS; map QoS-classes in, out, and between AP interfaces
- Separate traffic from different networks
- Enhanced client steering, with Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Agile MultibandTM fast BSS transition
- Securely onboard and authenticate Multi-AP devices
- IEEE 1905 message encryption
- Increased DFS channel usage with coordinated Channel Availability Check (CAC)
- More support for WFA Data Elements
- Increased channel scans
- Client steering reports
- Additional backhaul diagnostics
EasyMesh Controller functionality is currently limited to running on devices in the LAN. ASSIA is extending this to encompass cloud-based remote management.
ASSIA CloudCheck and EasyMesh
The CloudCheck architecture and roadmap are well aligned with the EasyMesh specification. CloudCheck currently has many proprietary algorithms and features for supporting multi-AP networks. So ASSIA can help you manage mesh access points today, using our own techniques. As the EasyMesh R2 specification is finalized, we will adopt the interfaces which will enable our current and new CloudCheck algorithms to work with other vendor’s multi-AP hardware. So our recommendation is that you get started with CloudCheck today and provide support for mesh networks. Then you will be well prepared to offer your subscribers support for a variety of mesh access points from different vendors in the future. We believe this will give you a competitive edge against the providers that are locking themselves into a single vendor’s mesh network hardware.