A Wireless-Wireline Physically Converged Architecture: Introducing Cellular Subscriber Lines

As customer demand for high-bandwidth services increases, providers look for ways to maximize existing infrastructure and manage costs. ASSIA is proud to be at the forefront of an innovative approach to solve this challenge: CSL (Cellular Subscriber Lines). CSL, as detailed in this paper published for IEEE, is a ground-breaking new concept for greatly extending radio coverage and data rates. CSL re-uses existing wireless-wireline architecture—copper phone, Ethernet, coaxial cable, and other wireline connections—to deploy numerous wireless small cells in an economical manner. The value of this approach is improved bandwidth at a much lower cost.

How CSL Works

CSL leverages existing cabling in a very low-cost architecture. As shown in the figure below, a single BaseBand Unit (BBU) communicates over existing cabling to many remote radio heads. The CSL-IFs down-convert the wireless baseband unit’s (BBU’s) signals to the appropriate frequencies for transmission through the wireline connection, with up-conversion at the CSL-RF. The same process also runs in reverse (with up-conversion at the CSL-RF) to provide bi-directional transmission. Complex modulation, coding, signal processing, MIMO, and other functions are performed at the BBU. The CSL-RF remote radio head (RRH) only needs to perform simple analog frequency conversion and amplification, thereby allowing a very low-cost, small and simple radio head. Further, communication over the wire is exceedingly simple, using existing cabling, with no need to run new fiber, and no costly optical to electrical (O2E) conversion.

 

Identical to 4G LTE and 5G NR, CSL modulates OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) signals, thereby providing complete interoperability with existing 4G/5G systems and handsets. The authors show that these OFDM signals are advantageously also nearly optimal for wireline transmission, when sent at the proper frequencies. For more details, refer to the IEEE paper to learn how cellular’s OFDM systems can be used to implement near-optimal DSL performance with the wireless signals.

Because radio head/base stations are simply-constructed and low-power, they cost less to deploy. When feeding many distributed small cells, these cost-savings could be significant.

Cost-Effective Wireless Deployment

With CSL, the baseband wireless link now includes the metallic baseband/IF signals, which has less attenuation than the same-length wireless link. Furthermore, several spatial streams can be multiplexed on single wire, allowing low-cost deployment of enhanced MIMO (Multi-Input, Multi-Output) systems for increased wireless performance.

Further, the electrical power that existing copper wire may deliver to the home could also energize the CSL-RF, solving the thorny problem of powering numerous small cells. Similarly, this architecture accommodates Wi-Fi systems, which is well-suited to enterprise deployments where Ethernet cable is present. The super-heterodyning concept of IF and RF can enable very low-cost proliferation and allow cloud-based control to enhance existing standardized infrastructure.

IDEAL MU-MIMO

CSL systems may well provide an excellent solution to the increasing need for more cost-effective wireless deployment so that the promise of a highly connected wireless future can advance with much less economic risk. CSL can enable the 5G vision

Massive Bandwidth Lift

As consumers demand better wireless quality in- and out-of-home, quality of service is critical but potentially costly. CSL would address this increasing demand with less economic risk. Cellular-wireless (or Wi-Fi-wireless), MCS, and MIMO methods’ re-use on copper costs less, uses more existing infrastructure, and improves wireless residential networks’ profitability.

Further, and possibly most dramatic, is the spectral efficiency, increase in effective speeds, and low latency provided by the ability of CSL to provide a cost-effective massive decrease in cell radius.

Data Rates (down plus up)

In the example above, an approximate decrease by a factor of 5 in cell radius provides over a factor of 25 increase in cellular reuse, with a consequent factor of 25 increase in effective bandwidth.

In summary, CSL is a dramatic and less expensive way to put a cell base station at every house so every customer gets a massive bandwidth increase for their mobile devices. By using their existing copper wiring (pair cable or coax), providers avoid the need to deploy a lot of fiber to the home.

While an exceptional solution for areas with wireline access built out 20-50 years ago, CSL is also a disruptive concept for the many countries that have already started to invest in getting fiber to every home.

For more information on CSL, contact the ASSIA sales team.


It’s proven. We’re helping service providers keep people connected.

Broadband connection has taken center stage during Covid-19 as subscribers of all sorts rely on the internet for almost everything—from frequent video conferencing to distance learning. This pervasive and ongoing Wi-Fi use requires service providers to move even more quickly to address customers’ demands and needs.

Optimizing for excellent customer experience can come at a high cost unless service providers take a proactive approach to maintaining networks and detecting issues before they arise. And, further, giving consumers the ability to solve problems quickly on their own, without having to call an agent or request a visit. Doing this gives subscribers what they want, and also reduces the costs needed to serve them.

Troubleshooting across the network

As demand for high-bandwidth services increases, network operators and service providers are searching for the fastest, most reliable, and cost-effective broadband delivery. With this comes a complexity of network management issues to ensure that the customers get the bandwidth they are paying for and expecting.

ASSIA solutions are designed to manage the challenges of deploying and operating a multi-platform networks (DSL, GPON, cable) and to reduce complexity in their overall operations. When subscribers can’t resolve issues on their own, service providers risk high operating costs from lengthy support calls, unnecessary truck rolls, or replacing perfectly healthy hardware. And possibly all of this without resolving the root cause of the performance issues.

Optimization, though, is precisely what fixes many common problems. A combination of Expresse and CloudCheck gives service providers full network path visibility and diagnostics, from the exchange to Wi-Fi connected devices inside the home. And, they give providers the means to optimize and address issues before they occur.  When customers call service centers, agents are quickly able to troubleshoot where the problem exists, diagnose, and resolve them.

ASSIA Expresse environment

ROI that’s proven in the field

Recently, ASSIA has performed in-depth work with multiple customers to help them improve operations around the world. We studied detailed call data and technical measurements that our system collects to tune up our optimization and diagnostic algorithms.

Key metrics we measure include:

  • Call analysis: average handling time, first-time resolution of calls, truck rolls, and returns
  • QoS/QoE: service continuity, speed required, drop-outs, disconnections

We also do detailed analysis over a month or more to monitor any seasonal issues or other impacts on the service.

Our results with one customer showed:

  • 50,000 fewer service calls for Wi-Fi support in six weeks’ time.
  • Fewer truck rolls than would normally occur in a 60-day period.
  • Customer churn was reduced by 2% in 30 days.

Altogether, we were able to show our customers, with actual data, how our software and technology help them control costs and deliver a better experience to their customers.

Demonstrated revenue and cost savings per 1,000,000 lines with an ASSIA customer

Fixing issues IRL, but not in person

What has been a service provider’s greatest challenge can also be considered their greatest opportunity: resolving technical issues without an in-person visit. The CloudCheck mobile application helps call center agents, field technicians, and subscribers work together to solve problems and handle installation remotely.

Through this app, field technicians can use CloudCheck to optimize the Wi-Fi network environment. And, when a customer calls in, the agent can view the entire network to see whether the issue is inside a subscriber’s home or outside and fix the problem without requiring a field technician to make an in-person visit unless deemed necessary. Remote management provides access to functionalities from anywhere once user-authenticated, so users can manage their networks remotely and field techs can conclude work orders.

An end-user application offers subscribers real-time information about what’s going on with their Wi-Fi and assistance with self-installation and troubleshooting. Features include:

  • Self-installation capabilities, eliminating the need for an appointment or an in-person visit when people are sheltering in place;
  • Parental controls to manage who has access and when;
  • Where to put an extender to get better Wi-Fi coverage around the house;
  • Self-service assistance to troubleshoot password issues or reboot when something is stuck

Self-service and field technician apps

ASSIA also provides diagnostics and recommendations so users can improve service on their own. And, to improve the service down the line, subscribers can leave feedback through the app.

Unparalleled expertise you can trust

ASSIA is a strategic partner and trusted vendor to over 35 service providers worldwide with more than 125 million broadband and Wi-Fi lines under contract, in 17 countries, across 5 continents. ASSIA is a trusted name in the industry for a reason. Our products are built and maintained by experts and leverage our global experience to make internet connections run faster and more reliably by optimizing the performance of whatever infrastructure is in place—copper, fiber, various generations of Wi-Fi including Wi-Fi 6, or 5G. As a result, ASSIA has a deep understanding of the challenges services providers face—from network stability to cost controls to churn.


Testing Quality of Experience, Not Just Speed

What matters to internet subscribers is that things work when they need them to. Speed and reliability take center stage when the bandwidth they’re paying for is not what they’re getting. Imagine the frustration of not seeing or hearing participants in a sales call on Zoom, or not having them see or listen to you. When issues like this occur, providers should expect a flood of calls or possibly churn.

Quality of Experience (QoE) is more than raw speed measurement; it ensures that end-users get the internet experience they want on whatever device they use—upstream or downstream. Consumers care more about “just working” than any technical measurements. That’s why providers need to make sure there is enough bandwidth to support end-users and their services, with a little headroom or extra in reserve.

Making sure everything always works

Delivering a QoE that meets or exceeds industry standards can be complicated. ASSIA is working with regulators to define and implement better ways to measure QoE for every customer type. Here’s why that’s important.

Global telecommunications regulators are adopting stringent rules to ensure service providers deliver advertised/minimum speeds, with financial consequences such as allowing consumers to terminate contracts when commitments are not met. To increase and measure speeds, service providers must manage the loads on their networks, which means frequent testing—a challenge when the equipment to run the tests requires a lot of processing power. 

Service providers are on the front lines of customer complaints. They must diagnose lagging performance and get the issue resolved—quickly. Whether the choke point is the Wi-Fi inside the house or the broadband to the home, taking a proactive approach to monitoring, diagnosing, and fixing issues ensures better service and lowers costs. It’s not only the speed of the network to the house, but also performance inside the house and through the system. Test often, not now and then.

TruSpeed Provides Visibility and Transparency 

ASSIA TruSpeed is a CloudCheck® software module that enables service providers, communications regulators, and wholesalers to gain visibility to true broadband and Wi-Fi throughput across the entire network. TruSpeed uses cloud-based machine learning to intelligently monitor and measure broadband and Wi-Fi speeds while assessing bottlenecks across five key points. Other solutions that only measure broadband speeds (not Wi-Fi) can disrupt subscriber experience or are constrained by the limited number of measurements gathered across a subset of the network. 

TruSpeed throughput measurements

In a growing number of countries, regulatory agencies require service providers to directly or indirectly provide speed data to the public. Traditional approaches rely on crowdsourced data or expensive hardware or one-off testing. These methods lack accuracy and reliability because of a limited sample size across the network. With TruSpeed, all network lines are tested regularly (including during peak hours). All data collected can be aggregated for regulatory compliant reporting. Transparency of this data shows end users that they are getting the experience they are paying for and regulators that service is being delivered as advertised. 

ASSIA has a deep understanding of customer requirements and the expectations of service providers and regulators. We maintain the highest standards of measurement and are working on technologies to improve internet connectivity worldwide. To that end, we will be conducting a study to obtain a complete picture of how testing and how quality assurances can be enhanced end to end. We aim to provide consumers with the confidence that they are getting the service they need and deserve.


Impact of MAC Randomization on Wi-Fi Management

MAC Randomization and CloudCheck: What ASSIA Customers Need to Know

Apple released a beta version of iOS 14 at WWDC 2020 in June, and with it, came a new feature intended to protect consumer privacy: changing the default state of the iOS device’s media access control (MAC) device address from static to dynamic. Google Android 10 also released a similar function in 2019, however, the default state is static. In both operating systems, the user has the ability to manually change the MAC address setting from dynamic to static.

What is a MAC address, and why hide it?

A MAC address is a unique identifier assigned to every device that connects to a network—smartphones, watches, tablets, computers. Because a MAC address is usually hard-coded into the device’s network card, the information is permanently there and accessible to third parties to collect data from network-enabled devices.

When users connect to public Wi-Fi in an airport, advertisers or stores can collect data on users’ locations, visits to stores, and engagement. With the release of Android 10 and iOS14, users can now mask their MAC addresses through a process called randomization.

What is MAC randomization, and what does it do?

Randomization creates a different, anonymized MAC address, instead of the real address, every time the same device connects to the internet. By hiding the exact address, users protect their privacy and prevent tracking when they connect to a network. MAC randomization has been present in most operating systems in some form over the last few years, but now the industry is moving to put tighter controls in place for consumer privacy and network security reasons.

What’s the impact on Wi-Fi management systems like CloudCheck?

Wi-Fi management systems, like CloudCheck, use MAC addresses as station identifiers. Station identifiers help CloudCheck know how many devices are on the network and optimize the Wi-Fi accordingly.

When subscribers connect to a Wi-Fi network and surf the internet, there will be no impact on CloudCheck’s capabilities without randomization. When randomization is enabled, some of the tracking features will not work as designed because the same device will use multiple MAC Addresses and appear as multiple devices in the system.

Impacted functions include:

  • Parental controls
  • Tracking daily Wi-Fi stats for a station – RSSI, throughput and data consumption
  • Station list in the user interface—some of the stations will appear twice or more
  • Optimization actions using historical network and operation data of a station
  • Blocking list of stations

Further random algorithms and impact will vary depending on the operating systems:
Android 10: As long as the user connects to an existing SSID, the MAC address would remain constant

  • iOS 14: Addresses change daily.
  • Android 10: Both options above are available for the user to select.

How is ASSIA addressing the impact of randomization?

ASSIA’s patent-pending device identification methods allow ASSIA to recognize the non-privacy-related devices for management and thus preserve the consumer’s good connectivity.

For more details, please contact your ASSIA representative or visit our contact us page.


WiFi 6 Will Have A Big Impact On Quality Of Experience

Wi-Fi has become a ubiquitous feature of our lives over the three decades since it was first introduced. Many advances have been made during this time, such as the successful opening up of both 2.4GHz and 5.7GHz bands for use in all Wi-Fi enabled devices. Today the Wi-FI industry is shipping over 3 billion chipsets annually, with 5 billion Wi-FI devices currently in homes around the world . The global installed device base is estimated to exceed twice the entire population of the Earth by 2022.  

With 70% of data traffic on cellular mobile devices carried out by Wi-Fi, the proliferation of IoT (Internet of Things) devices, and the growth of Wi-Fi dependent services such as streaming video, our current Wi-Fi infrastructure is starting to reach its limit, especially when used in high-density environments like apartment buildings, airports and public spaces.  

In April 2020, the FCC officially approved 6GHz band use in the US, allowing Wi-Fi to extend its reach further and faster onto 1200 MHz of radio spectrum. This momentous decision will triple the available spectrum, opening the door wider for broadband services and innovation far into the future. Coined Wi-Fi 6E, this historical advancement will enhance the entire wireless experience.  

Wi-Fi has been recognized as a foundational technology for IoT, as well as an important feature in bringing communication networks to underserved areas, and a great contributor to national and global economies. Access to the 6GHz spectrum will enable Wi-Fi to continue delivering the vast innovations and socioeconomic benefits it is bringing to the market today.  

“Opening up blocks of 6 GHz bandwidth for Wi-Fi definitely supports growth of Wi-Fi in the next decade. Many more larger-bandwidth channels can be simultaneously deployed to enable data heavy communication and back and front haul of multi-node wireless networks, and increase immunity to interference over all as a Wi-Fi system. As a side benefit, Wi-Fi signal location accuracy can significantly improve and open up paths for new applications,” said  Tuncay Cil, Chief Strategy Officer of ASSIA. “ASSIA will be actively supporting standardization and commercialization of new capabilities of 6 GHz in a vendor-neutral fashion across the Wi-Fi ecosystem.” 

Wi-FI 6E will serve as a complement to the upcoming release of the 5G cellular network. At a 5.9GHz to 7.1GHz range in a 1.2GHz radio spectrum, Wi-Fi 6E has access to nearly 1.5 times the amount of frequencies to transmit on the fastest 5G cellular connections (3.5GHz on 800MHz). This translates into faster data rates, triple additional spectrum and bandwidth, lower latency, and massive capacity. 

Opening up blocks of 6 GHz bandwidth for Wi-Fi will continue to support the growth of Wi-Fi in decades to come. A lot more larger-bandwidth channels can be simultaneously deployed to enable data-heavy communication, as well as backhaul and fronthaul of multi-node wireless networks. There will be increased immunity to interference overall in the Wi-Fi system. This new bandwidth opens up greater location accuracy which will significantly improve and open up paths for applications. ASSIA will be actively supporting standardization and commercialization of the new 6 GHz capabilities in a vendor-neutral fashion across the Wi-Fi ecosystem. 

These recent WiFi 6E enhancements, along with the promising future of a 5G cellular spectrum will be giving users a much improved range of wireless options. Despite the many challenges the world faces, we have a lot to look forward to when it comes to wireless.  


Mitigation practices for improving home broadband services

During the first two months of the COVID-19 crisis we monitored traffic patterns on broadband lines from different points of presence (i.e. CPEs, copper or optical fiber local loops), while helping operators provide solutions to mitigate the impact of higher traffic on existing infrastructure.

This effort revealed some interesting insights and uncovered some effective mitigation strategies that operators can take to improve the customer quality-of-experience.

Home-based traffic patterns are now very different

We compiled usage data by combining feedback from key operators as well as running direct measurements at DSLAM/OLT and CPE points using ASSIA’s Expresse and CloudCheck products.  

Here is what we uncovered: 

  1. A steep rise in upload traffic with the upload-to-download traffic ratio increasing more than 60%. The peak you can see in late December is due to the impact of video calls around Christmas Day.
  2. Customer usage patterns have shifted. With video conferencing happening from home during the week, what used to be weekend traffic profiles are now taking place throughout the week.
  3. Upstream traffic levels cross the long-term average level 4-hours earlier than before, changing to align to a workday schedule.

Congestion 

Increased traffic demand will often create congestion. We are detecting a lot of congestion at the Wi-Fi level which can only be corrected at the access node. ASSIA Expresse is a valuable tool for operators to help mitigate this, especially since upstream congestion correlates to poor perceived quality and is a big factor for increased customer churn. 

  • ASSIA CloudCheck detected spikes in upstream congestion. Further analysis found that 40% of customers with 2 upstream congestion detections in the prior 7 days had rated the reliability of their service as poor. This negatively impacted the operator’s Net Promoter Score versus its competitor. 
  • The percentage of customers experiencing upstream congestion has almost doubled for lines with high upstream rates. For lines with low upstream rates (1Mbps and below), the percentage of lines experiencing upstream congestion was already high and degraded further. 

Mitigation strategies

These are a sampling of the mitigation strategies that our clients could use to cope with the situation:

  • Analyze lines capable of higher uplink traffic with ASSIA Expresse and then change profile optimization logic. This task can be implemented on selected services and then be generalized to all services.
  • Create a capability to switch between a conservative and aggressive optimization logic where some customers can be upgraded outside of their SPs, then add lines to higher-tier services and upsell customers into those services. The two versions of the service, one normal and one “on steroids,” can be switched for customers through ASSIA Expresse.
  • Launch a market campaign to increase rates based on a previous ASSIA Expresse service analysis of the whole operator network plus the definition and upload of new profiles.
  • Create a new service based on identification of lines capable of carrying a higher-tier service by utilizing the ASSIA Expresse service recommender and creating new profiles.

Conclusion

The impact of COVID-19 has changed internet usage patterns in dramatic ways, creating headaches for operators, but also significant new business opportunities for those that embrace the changes and put into place technologies that help them identify problems, design new strategies to improve service and encourage upselling to customers who now need to consume more.