Tuncay Cil

Posted by Tuncay Cil

Chief Strategy Officer

Tuncay Cil has published 2 blog posts.

There’s something missing in network investment and management

This blog was originally published by IBC.

We are missing a critical tool to make right investment and management decisions in networks, writes ASSIA Chief Strategy Officer Tuncay Cil.

For better or worse, broadband speed has been the de facto Quality of Experience (QoE) metric for broadband connectivity for the last decade. Network operators, data centers, network equipment and software vendors, content and application providers, all rely on some interpretation of QoE metrics for broadband internet connectivity results to make key investment, operations and marketing decisions.

Moreover, national regulatory agencies also have been more active in the last years to enforce monitoring consumer QoE/speeds to drive national broadband initiatives and regulate carriers. BEREC, ARCEP, FCC, Ofcom all have different initiatives like the sourcing of a reference system to build a standard SpeedTest solution.

We still have ways to go to achieve this objective and the current tools are clearly not sufficient for the goals of the eco-system.

Significantly misleading
There is no standard for performance benchmarking and most tools are significantly misleading.

The speed test measurement goals, methodologies, and results differ significantly. Moreover, the content providers, service providers, and regulators all see significantly different results based on different speed test measurement methodologies, and even for the same service in the same location for similar large number of sample set. For example, Akamai, Netflix, YouTube, FCC, and many speed test vendors produce aggregate analytics for broadband speeds for a particular nation/location and the results can vary over 200% at times.

Some of the variation can naturally be attributed to the motivations/goals of measurement:

  • Using average speeds as performance benchmarking for “speed as experienced by end-user” (ex: do I get the speed that was advertised to me? How is my connection speed compared to others?)
  • End-to-end vs. component by component testing. (ex: Where is the bottleneck in delivery of the service across content servers, internet backbone, last-mile access network, home networks, consumer device, etc)
  • A single connection vs. many ex: (aggregate by location, or other attribute of connectivity profile)

Beyond different purposes, the testing method inaccuracies are also responsible for wildly varying speed test results:

  • Bias in end-user initiated only-at-time-of-trouble speed tests
  • Using end-to-end testing as a proxy to home network speed.\
  • Inaccurate data sampling
  • Single vs. multiple server measurements
  • Single vs. multiple TCP stream measurements

Improving the situation

Providing full visibility on individual component performance while measuring end-to-end connectivity performance would address most gaps in current tooling for broadband speed testing. However the design and deployment of such new tooling have to take into account regulatory rules, service providers operational concerns, and varying capabilities of network equipment vendors.

We believe there are five different segments and associated testing capabilities that need to be refined and made available to internet eco-system partners:

  • Wi-Fi throughput via device measurement: This test is made from the consumer device to the AP (with or without agent) through the consumer device. The measurement method should allow single-end Wi-Fi measurement to avoid CPE software update where it is not possible to make such change to the CPE.
  • Wi-Fi throughput from the CPE should also allow single-ended Wi-Fi measurement methodology but this time through the CPE instead of the consumer device. This way the consumer devices would not need additional software installation to enable testing. Also, the measurement should be made automatically on a configurable schedule without end-user involvement. A software agent in CPE can initiate this kind of testing to all devices connected to the CPE.
  • End-to-end throughput test by the consumer device provides upstream and downstream measurement as well as latency. The test should be performed to/from a test node placed on or off network. This measurement can be initiated by the consumer device.
  • Network throughput test from the CPE is initiated by the CPE agent to/from a Test node placed on or off network. The end-user usage should not impact the test results. In addition, the testing software agent in the CPE should collect traffic data on a frequent basis and can thereby derive maximum and average throughputs over pre-set intervals and peak/off peak times.
  • Access Sync/Contracted rate should be passively collected on access nodes in service provider backend Physical and upper-layer transmission impairments can also be detected by Access Network Data Collector (ANDC).

Defining the next Wi-Fi-Revolution

Since 2000, I refrain from using the word “revolution” because a “tech-revolution” is a morning routine where I live, in Silicon Valley. However, for Wi-Fi, the word “revolution” seems to be just right to describe the dual nature of the change this technology is experiencing. Over a series of blogs my colleagues and I will try to present ASSIA perspective on this revolution in detail.

Merriam-Webster lists two main definitions for the word revolution. One is about a rotation or completing of a course, the other is about sudden radical change. The type of revolution we are bound to experience in Wi-Fi in the next couple of years fits both definitions of the word “revolution”.

Completing and restarting another course of Wi-Fi technology cycle

Over 20 years ago Wi-Fi’s main promise was about providing connectivity to masses without the restrictions imposed by the carriers or the government.  Wi-Fi has since fulfilled this promise and became the de facto connectivity standard for connected devices.  Over the years, we have observed significant improvements in speed, and capabilities of Wi-Fi over multiple “courses” around the technology cycles.

Carriers have spent the last 10 years improving broadband performance and reliability.   Now a 100Mbps connection to the home is not uncommon.   But, that’s not satisfying if you are then limited by your WiFi connection.    The improvements in broadband have exposed weaknesses in WiFi.   WiFi related issues are the biggest driver of customer technical complaints.

Similarly, the number of WiFi devices in the home has exploded over the last 10 years.  Even if the data rates for each device only modestly increases, the number of new devices puts a much greater load on the home network. Widespread adoption of video services have made consumers much more aware of data drops.   Where lower data rates and higher error rates were acceptable for data applications, video applications are much less forgiving and inspire swifter consumer reaction.

The upcoming advances in Wi-Fi are being fueled by the actions of the government, the industry alliances, and the continuous improvement in the price/performance of Wi-Fi chipsets.  This includes a new unlicensed band at 6GHz, faster and better reach/coverage with different flavors of 802.11 (Example: 11ax/ad/ah/af..), and better interoperability across multiple access points. The net effect of this technology cycle/rotation is going to be observed as 10GBps connectivity between your laptop and your TV screen, 1GBps connection speed between your phone and your home network when you are out in your garden, uninterrupted video streaming where it is not possible today without wires.

Radical change in industry focus

While the rate of adoption of Wi-Fi has been fast, the quality of experience (QoE) has been poor and the management of the network has been labor intensive and costly.

The fundamental drawback of Wi-Fi has always been the lack of guarantee for any level of QoE.  This was interpreted as “carte blanche” for not incorporating QoE as a key input to the Wi-Fi network.

Over the last couple of years Carriers, CPE vendors, and chipset vendors finally accepted the need for self-management and end-user QoE driven decision making in Wi-Fi management systems. For carriers, the ever increasing cost of customer complaints and service calls was one of the key driving factors.  Also, recently the adoption of multi-path TCP and Wi-Fi-LTE bonding technologies by the handset manufacturers provided another path to guarantee certain level of QoE to end-user devices over Wi-Fi on unlicensed spectrum. 

ASSIA’s mission in the Wi-Fi-Revolution

For the average home Wi-Fi user, intelligence of network and technical advances are not comprehensible. The complexity of the issue reflects mainly on the OPEX of service providers and CPE vendors who must bear the cost of supporting the consumers.

Consumers mostly relate to fast and reliable connectivity as they just expect it to work.  The rest of the technical discussions regarding Wi-Fi is reserved for the enthusiasts and professionals. ASSIA believes proper management of connectivity is the only solution to a fast and reliable connection no matter what technology improvements become available in networks.

By proper management, we mean managing the performance issues as they relate to the end-user QoE and taking actions to improve the QoE.  ASSIA’s QoE based Wi-Fi management approach has been enabled by its patented technologies that utilize different forms of Artificial Intelligence to detect patterns of problems that affect the end-user QoE in a dynamic/ever changing network environment. After a long period of field testing and more recenty full deployments by service providers, many carriers chose ASSIA’s CloudCheck® Wi-Fi Management solution among a large set of alternatives mainly because of real world impact on OPEX costs and end-user QoE scores.

ASSIA’s mission is to deliver fast and reliable Wi-Fi connectivity to consumer and help service providers address OPEX and complexity associated with delivering reliable service in an ever-changing world of wireless connectivity.  We look forward to improving Wi-Fi Quality of Experience as the complexity of the technologies increase.