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Guide to Cloud-based Wi-Fi Management Standards and Open Source

The landscape of Wi-Fi standards that will help service providers take responsibility for managing home Wi-Fi CPE is still evolving. There are several standards and open source initiatives that are intended to help service providers manage the in-home quality of experience for their subscribers, but none are fully specified or widely adopted yet. This puts the service provider looking for a technology path for managing home Wi-Fi that will serve them today, as well as tomorrow, in a tough situation.  Do they purchase a solution or build it themselves using an open source initiative? Which Wi-Fi standards will impact the effectiveness of their solution today and tomorrow? To help service providers navigate this territory, ASSIA’s Director of Standards, Ken Kerpez, put together a “Guide to Cloud-based Wi-Fi Management Standards”.  The goal of this paper is to help organizations understand the different standards and open-source initiatives and the role each plays in cloud-based Wi-Fi management.

The Present Situation: The “Crossroads”

This section of the “Guide to Cloud-based Wi-Fi Management Standards” looks at how the widely adopted TR-069 protocol, the defacto management standard, was not built to handle the volume and complexity of communications today. The protocol was not designed to cope with factors such as the number of devices, the volume of data, mesh networking, security issues, and multiple IoT devices. As a result, some service providers have developed in-house proprietary solutions. This trend, of course, reduces interoperability and agility.

Evolution of Competition and OTT Technology

This section of the “Guide to Cloud-based Wi-Fi Management Standards” starts with the emergence of Over the Top (OTT) players such as Amazon and Google providing content, applications, e-commerce and consumer electronics creating a challenge for service providers, who were already facing increased costs. As result, many, who may have just implemented TR-069, started to move beyond TR-069 in a variety of ways. It breaks this evolution into three, somewhat overlapping phases.

  • Phase 1: Re-engineering propriety software stacks
  • Phase 2: Interoperability
  • Phase 3: Adoption of common initiatives

CPE Management Standards and Open Source Initiatives

This section of the “Guide to Cloud-based Wi-Fi Management Standards” dives deep into the three major initiatives listed in the table below.

Initiatives Description & Purpose Supporting Organizations
USP/TR-369 Remote management of CPE which encompasses IoT. The next generation of the TR-069 standard. Uses the TR-181 data model, also used by TR-069, with objects for managing Wi-Fi including Data Elements, multi-AP and single-AP Broadband Forum, which has more than 100 principal members, both service providers and vendors (e.g., AT&T, SoftBank, Cisco and Qualcomm)
prplMesh An implementation of Wi-Fi Multi-AP / EasyMesh™ specification from the Wi-Fi Alliance to manage multiple access points with a single on-premise controller. prpl Foundation, an opensource, community-driven, collaborative, nonprofit foundation with more than 30 members (e.g., Broadcom, Intel and Vodafone) and more than 200 active engineers. Also defining common interfaces for managing Wi-Fi the Broadband Forum.
Data Elements Defines select parameters for monitoring and diagnostics of Wi-Fi, particularly for Multi-AP. Now being extended to cover new Multi-AP features, Wi-Fi 6, and remote configuration. The Wi-Fi Alliance, with hundreds of members, and defines certification of Wi-Fi devices for conformance and interoperability/
OpenSync Open source middleware to enable common SDN control of, and data collection from, the CPE. Runs on a proprietary server. Plume

As the “Guide to Cloud-based Wi-Fi Management Standards” discusses, these new standards such as USP/TR-369 will make it easier for service providers to take ownership of the Wi-Fi environment as an essential component of their broadband service delivery. These upcoming standards will also enable service providers to offer new and incremental services, expanding their revenue base.

Download our complete Guide to Cloud-based Wi-Fi Management Standards and Open Source White Paper

A complete overview of the CPE Management Standards and open-source initiatives, and what they intend to accomplish:

  • From TR-069 to USP/TR-369
  • prplMesh
  • OpenSync

 

Other related materials by ASSIA’s Director of Standards Ken Kerpez, that may be of interest to you are:


Participation in Standards Organizations

ASSIA
Marketing Team

Posted on June 29, 2020

We want our customers to be confident that the investment they make today to improve their internet QoS and home Wi-Fi QoE will not be obsolete in a few years. That is why we actively participate in standards organizations and contributes to the definition of standards.

The ecosystem for internet access technology is very dynamic. New advancements are introduced at an aggressive pace. As a result, service providers must constantly upgrade equipment and services to stay competitive, which can be very costly. When it comes to optimizing internet and Wi-Fi performance for QoS and QoE, a proprietary solution that works great today, may not do the job in a few years as technology and home Wi-Fi environments change.

The Standards Organizations Landscape

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, there are many organizations that define standards that impact our service provider customers. There are Wi-Fi, broadband, DSL, virtualization, and GPON standards groups—to name a few—that contribute to our industry. So, we often are asked in which standards bodies ASSIA participates.

So we worked with our Director of Standards, Ken Kerpez, to create the document “ASSIA Participation in Standards Organizations” that summarizes:

  • The standards organizations we contribute to or follow
  • Their purpose
  • The standards they are defining that are important to our service provider, network provider, phone carrier, and cable company customers

What We Contribute

ASSIA’s participation with standards organizations goes far beyond just attending the meetings. ASSIA actively contributes to these standards by:

  • Researching and innovating technologies
  • Authoring, and co-authoring, standards contributions – over 60 in the past year
  • Helping to define, shape, and evolve the standards for the better

Goals for Our Standards Work

As we work with these standards organizations, our goal is to assure these technology standards constantly innovate and improve so that operators are instrumented with:

  • Operator access to open management interfaces for enhanced performance management, monitoring, optimization, and diagnostics
  • Constantly improving high-performance technologies
  • Open interfaces so that these technologies can be managed by intuitive products such as Apps and cloud services built by operators and vendors
  • Standard open source technologies shared across the industry

Benefits to Our Customers

Our work with standards groups results in the following benefits for our customers:

  • Low operational and capital costs
  • Rapid times to market
  • Smooth deployments and upgrades
  • Reusable components
  • Enhanced services
  • Reliable diagnostics and optimization

Our Standards Organizations Focus

Our areas of focus include standard technologies currently in use such as Wi-Fi, mesh networks, cloud-management, DSL, PON (fiber), and G.fast, and future technologies such as G.mgfast and Wi-Fi 6E.

Download the document “ASSIA Participation in Standards Organizations” to see what we are doing with the:

And stay tuned for our “Guide to Wi-Fi Standards and Open Source” whitepaper which will be published here later this month.


ASSIA Is Your EasyMesh Partner

ASSIA
Marketing Team

Posted on June 28, 2020

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 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, taking control and visibility away from the service providers making it hard to manage them or requiring them to lock themselves into a single mesh solution, which is far from ideal from customer acquisition and satisfaction standpoints. 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.

EasyMesh

Enter EasyMesh, a standard from the Wi-Fi Alliance©, which will allow Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh™ devices to interoperate and be centrally controlled. EasyMesh R2 is now available with a richer set of features than the original version, and R3 will soon add even more features. About 75 devices are now Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh™. So, should service providers get started supporting mesh networks now? We at ASSIA believe you should start now, and we have a path for you to do it.

EasyMesh R1

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 onboarding, 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 is both a specification and a test plan with compliance testing.

Other features specified in EasyMesh R1 are;

Diagnostics

  • 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 the 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

Steering

  • Station associations (client steering); control which AP an 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 the controller

Set reporting policies for steering and metrics reporting

EasyMesh R2

EasyMesh R2, which is now finalized, contains four key categories of features; traffic separation, security, spectrum optimization, and additional diagnostics.

Traffic control

  • 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

Security

  • Securely onboard and authenticate Multi-AP devices
  • IEEE 1905 message encryption

Spectrum optimization

  • Increased DFS channel usage with coordinated Channel Availability Check (CAC)

Diagnostics

  • 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.

EasyMesh R3

EasyMesh R3 is still in development, and is to contain the following new features:

  • Services prioritization
  • Wi-Fi 6 capabilities reporting1905
  • Layer Security
  • Wi-Fi EasyConnectTM DPP onboarding
  • Multicast loop prevention

ASSIA CloudCheck and EasyMesh

The CloudCheck architecture and roadmap are well aligned with the EasyMesh specification. We are actively contributing to prplMesh with the prpl foundation to define a standard and interoperable network with all of our expertise in the field. CloudCheck currently has many proprietary algorithms and features for supporting multi-AP networks, and we are now working to implement EasyMesh and 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.

 


Wi-Fi Data Elements™ and CloudCheck

Ken Kerpez
ASSIA Ph.D., IEEE Fellow

Posted on June 19, 2020

For internet service providers taking responsibility for managing their subscriber’s home Wi-Fi, or wanting to, the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Data Elements™ is a standard set of Wi-Fi diagnostics parameters. It defines a standard set of Wi-Fi data elements for diagnostics that will make it easier for service providers and vendors like ASSIA to gather and make sense of data from diverse CPE.

ASSIA is an active contributor and Ken Kerpez of ASSIA serves as Editor for this standard. The CloudCheck architecture, which is proven to effectively manage home Wi-Fi, is designed to take advantage of the WFA Data Elements, as well as the WFA EasyMesh standard, and the upcoming TR-369 User Services Platform (USP) standard from the Broadband Forum.

Now, let’s talk about this new standard and how it will help internet service providers.

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Data Elements™

The Wi-Fi Alliance Data Elements give service providers better visibility into customer Wi-Fi networks for such key performance indicators (KPI) as Wi-Fi data rates, airtime, and retry rates. It establishes a standardized data model built specifically for Wi-Fi networks that encompasses 130 KPIs.

Data Elements™

R2Data Elements™ R2 specification is now progressing in the Wi-Fi Alliance. This will include Data Elements for Multi-AP R2 and R3 features, including inventory parameters, metrics and steering profiles, prioritization, traffic separation, DFS CAC, backhaul status, client capabilities, security capabilities, failed connection notification, and Wi-Fi 6 parameters.

Further, Data Elements R2 is now defining parameters for remote configuration. These are writeable and can be used to control and configure an EasyMesh controller.

Helps Service Providers with Remote Troubleshooting

Wi-Fi Data Elements contains a carefully selected set of Wi-Fi diagnostics parameters which are important for remote Wi-Fi troubleshooting. When a customer contacts their service provider, Data Elements enables technical support personnel to review Wi-Fi performance, status, counters, and network data for remote diagnosis. Used with an automated Wi-Fi management system, Data Elements can reduce trouble calls, lower truck rolls, decrease hardware replacement, and increase customer satisfaction.

Helps Service Providers Optimize In-Home Wi-Fi Topology

A big challenge service providers have managing and assuring QoS, is not having insight into what is going within the home. Wi-Fi Data Elements can be used by a Wi-Fi management system to identify coverage issues in a home, which can then be resolved by deploying a Multi-AP network configured via Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh™ .

wi-fi data elements

Both single-AP and multi-AP profiles are supported by Wi-Fi Data Elements. The Data Elements Collector is in the gateway or other AP for the single-AP profile. The Data Elements Collector is in the Wi-Fi device that also has the EasyMesh controller for the multi-AP profile. The Data Elements Agent records the data model. Information is gathered rapidly by the Data Elements Collector and timestamped without use of significant network resources. Upon request, the agent sends saved data models to the Data Elements Collector, as shown in the Figure. In addition, association and disassociation event notifications are sent autonomously from the Data Elements Agent.

Wi-Fi Data Elements Objects and Parameters

The objects and parameters in Wi-Fi Data elements are read only and include those in the following table.

Network device list Data rates
Device and radio IDs and capabilities Signal strengths
Utilizations (airtime) Scan results
Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) prioritization capabilities Neighboring APs data
Operating class Unassociated station data
Counters per AP and per associated stations Association and disassociation events

The Data Elements YANG model and JSON schema are included in the Data Elements Specification Package. There is a Data Elements test plan in addition to the specification, this test plan enables certification.

Data Elements and TR-369/User Services Platform (USP)

Data Elements is now part of the TR-181 2.13 Device.WiFi data model; in the Device.WiFi.DataElements. object.TR-181 had already specified 250 parameters for Wi-Fi single-AP and Wi-Fi station management, including write objects for remote configuration that has been commonly used by TR-069. The TR-369/USP standard from the Broadband Forum, not only uses this updated TR-181 data model, but can also handle the real-time data, communication, and control requirements of today’s Wi-Fi networks. Requirements that are driven by the high number of IoT, mobile, and entertainment devices in a home, mesh networking, security concerns, and multiple OTT services connecting to CPEs in a distributed fashion. Tim Spets, ASSIA, is USP project leader.

ASSIA CloudCheck and the New Standard

Wi-Fi Data Elements uses an Agent-Cloud system for gathering data as depicted in Figure 1 above, similar to the architecture of ASSIA CloudCheck for Wi-Fi management. The CloudCheck Agent, which is embedded in APs, gathers a significant amount of data in addition to those in the Data Elements standard, at a very fine timescale. This data is pre-processed, filtered, and sent up to CloudCheck Server. Our field experience gathering this data has been instrumental in our contributions to the upcoming TR-369 standard which will help CloudCheck get the data it needs at the speed it needs.

Retrieving Wi-Fi data is an important first step; however such a torrent of raw data can overwhelm technical support personnel. Data analyses are vital to interpreting the data for presentation to personnel, or to enable automated responses. CloudCheck uses sophisticated cloud-based machine learning algorithms to identify:

  • problems related to coverage
  • interference
  • congestion
  • legacy Wi-Fi clients
  • latency
  • time-of-day usage.

To help service providers distinguish between internet QoS and user-perceived Wi-Fi QoE, CloudCheck can identify broadband access vs. Wi-Fi bottlenecks, and their impact on the user experience.

CloudCheck further automates Wi-Fi configuration optimization; to optimally allocate channels, bands, client associations, and other Wi-Fi configurations. Wi-Fi Data Elements and other data is analyzed by CloudCheck, to automatically identify Wi-Fi troubles, and in many cases to also automatically remediate these troubles before they would adversely impact customer satisfaction and increase operations costs.

The Future of the Wi-Fi Diagnostics Standard

As always, ASSIA is very committed to the advancement of industry standards and will support future versions of this Wi-Fi Data Elements standard so that more service providers can take responsibility for their subscribers Wi-Fi QoE and:

  1. Offer new services in the form of different levels of service, leasing or selling additional access points, etc.
  2. Reduce service and support operational expenses
  3. Improve customer satisfaction and retention
  4. Increase revenues

Read the Interview with Tuncay Cil, ASSIA Chief Strategy Officer, about Data Elements on Wi-Fi Now.


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.  


7 Factors Driving Future of Home Wi-Fi

David Stevenson
ASSIA CRO. BS in Physics and Electrical Engineering from the University of Sydney.

Posted on June 8, 2020

It is hard to believe that Wi-Fi has been around for 20 years now and it is amazing how far we have come. But as Wi-Fi has become a part of our daily lives and smart devices fill our home, our demands and expectations of Wi-Fi are increasing, especially at a time when so much work has shifted to the home. Looking forward, we’ve compiled seven factors that will shape the future of home Wi-Fi during its 3rd decade.

1. Managed Home Wi-Fi that Delivers Broadband to the Device will have Significant Value to Consumers and Service Providers

Wi-Fi performance matters to consumers. If paying for 50Mb/s to their home, they expect to get at least that to their device wherever they are, and they choose their provider based on their experience and perception of who best delivers what they pay for. But since most consumers don’t know if their performance problems are caused by their Wi-Fi or the network, they call their service provider when their home Wi-Fi does not perform well, which means:

  • Costly customer service calls and field visits increase
  • Networks and homes need upgrades to meet customer satisfaction demands

We have seen a large lift in carrier adoption of our Wi-Fi management solution, CloudCheck, so we predict the future of home Wi-Fi will see more and more service providers take responsibility for managing home Wi-Fi in the first part of the coming decade.

2. Standards are Needed as Industry Moves to Multiple Access Points and Mesh

Wi-Fi has changed the way we consume content in our homes. Home entertainment behavior has moved from families watching TV shows together on a television—often connected via cable—to many devices throughout the home concurrently using Wi-Fi for entertainment, each of which requires good coverage and availability. Today, family members are:

  • Working from their home offices and conducting business using cloud apps
  • Communicating with work colleagues and family through videoconferencing
  • Streaming videos from their device anywhere they are
  • Making phone calls via Wi-Fi and messaging apps
  • Shopping online
  • Interactively playing multi-person/multi-location games with virtual reality

As a result, consumers care about their Wi-Fi Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE) and expect their service providers to:

  • Provide high throughput with low latency
  • Optimize the service to each device based on what they are doing
  • Manage channels and bands as a shared resource within and between homes

The resulting complexity and required interoperability are forcing the industry to move from single-vendor proprietary solutions to standards-based solutions that let consumers mix and match from multiple vendors to meet their unique needs. Standards such as Wi-Fi Certified Data Elements™ will be critical for the future of home Wi-Fi. This is why ASSIA has committed significant resources to participating in standards bodies including the Wi-Fi AllianceBroadband Forum, NICCITU, the prpl Foundation and  ETSI.

3. EasyMesh Will Offer Agility and Freedom to Service Providers

EasyMesh is one such standard that defines a standardized way for access points and home gateways to talk to each other, allowing devices to be mixed and matched in the home. In the future of home Wi-Fi, this will relieve the need for service providers to bring customer-premises equipment (CPE) vendors together to figure out how to get their devices to interwork, which has historically meant service providers had to deploy proprietary software across the devices and take responsibility for testing and maintenance. In many ways, industry dependency on chip manufacturers has held the industry back and been a major obstacle to growth of the Wi-Fi ecosystem. The last two decades has shown that chipset vendors don’t have a viable software business and that they should allow others to modernize the software stack.

To date, we have been a neutral player in this phase of the market with a software solution that can be deployed on any device. As EasyMesh gets implemented as a standard feature of CPE, we will be able to make our solution work from the gateway to any device. We expect to see a lot of standard-compliant devices come to market, which will allow service providers to select a combination of vendors and even offer Wi-Fi management themselves for device users. It will take a while to get new devices through certification, but we are working to make it a simple software upgrade from our current solution.

4. Interoperability Standards like TR369 and OpenSync Hold Promise for Cloud-Managed Wi-Fi

TR369 is an open standard which uses more modern protocols allowing more detailed and real-time information to be used by cloud-based algorithms to monitor and take action, which we think is the future of home Wi-Fi. It will take a little while to mature and the standard will need to stay up to date as chip and device vendors innovate. It will also need testing to make sure management services and devices interwork properly. That said, TR369 has the promise of doing for Wi-Fi what TR69/TR98/TR181 tried to do but missed the mark—enabling the cloud-based management of Wi-Fi to solve problems in real time. ASSIA is engaged in defining TR369 and has a lot of experience to contribute from using our high-performing protocol.

ASSIA is involved in OpenSync, PRPL, and a several service provider initiatives all aimed at solving the same problem—how to speed time to market for new services and features by reducing interworking problems between management and device as new software is deployed. To a degree, NFV is working to solve similar issues for the network, but like it, we are seeing multiple camps and we still have a way to go for things to mature.

5. Supporting Multiple Dwelling Units (MDUs) Will Become Critical in the Future of Home Wi-Fi

MDUs is a subject I’ve had quite a lot of experience with from a previous phase of my career doing management for GPON and 3GPP small cells. There is definitely huge value to coordinate management across adjacent living units which are within range to interfere with each other’s radio connections. Wi-Fi 6 helps by adding more capacity (channels and bands) and things like MIMO and low-power IoT device operation to the mix. But it will take a while to roll out and for a system to be able to optimize behavior across devices. 

In current service provider trials, we are seeing real advantage in coordinating Radio Resource Management across devices, such as the better use of the channels and frequency bands, increases in the median transmission rates, and higher availability to create a better quality of experience for users. 

6. Wi-Fi 6 (802.11AX) Will Make a Difference, but Not Right Away

While devices are already available which boast Wi-Fi 6 capability, they are not cheap, and experience says it will take a few years to really have a wide impact. Tri-band radio devices and mesh are already happening, and, to a degree, they are solving the same problems—coverage and throughput. Wi-Fi 6 also needs a new generation of consumer devices (phones, tablets, computers, etc.) to take advantage of the new features, which will also take a while.

We are supporting Wi-Fi 6-capable devices now, but we think it will take another generation of chipsets and devices before the cost comes down and for Wi-Fi 6 to become a significant contributor to the future of home Wi-Fi. In addition, more work is required to implement all the new features in the standard such as MIMO and channel sharing.

7. 5G Has Value but Wi-Fi Will Continue to Have its Place

What we are seeing is that mm wave and the 5G standard promise to become part of the industry solutions for the final leg of broadband to the home. 5G still needs a lot of fiber to the distribution point. Where there are copper or cable drops in place, access technologies are keeping up to deliver bandwidth to the home (ASSIA is very involved in helping manage and optimize these services), but Wi-Fi will remain a key part of in-home distribution where we need something that can go through walls or be distributed across a home to give in-house coverage.

In anticipation of 5G as part of the future of home Wi-Fi, we are working with service providers with our combined solutions which not only optimize broadband to the home but also broadband in the home and to the device.

Future of Home Wi-Fi Summary

In summary, it’s been a great 20 years and we have made a lot of progress. But as the 7 factors demonstrate, the industry has a lot of work to do to meet the increasing consumer demands and expectations for the future of home Wi-Fi, and ASSIA is here to do our part. ASSIA looks forward to making significant contributions to the future of home Wi-Fi in the decade to come.

The Case For Managed Wi-Fi: Download Free White Paper

The massive and likely permanent shift of office work to the home has created big problems for carriers as consumers strain networks both to the home and inside the home, assuming the carriers are responsible for device performance and connectivity issues.

Fortunately, this also offers carriers a unique and urgent opportunity to take more control of the situation, reducing costs and increasing revenues. Managed home Wi-Fi includes the following opportunities:

  • Managing and reducing operational costs (OpEx) by gaining visibility of connectivity issues inside the home and leveraging diagnostic tools
  • Maximizing the ROI from capital investment (CapEx) by optimizing equipment and service performance
  • Creating new revenue streams
  • Reducing churn by giving customers a differentiated quality of experience

Learn how your company can utilize managed Wi-Fi to get the most out of this opportunity.

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Home Wi-Fi QoE: Post-AI Hype Connected Home Management

ASSIA
Marketing Team

Posted on May 28, 2020

Artificial Intelligence (AI) receives a lot of hype these days. The tech industry uses it extensively, in ranges of use from home digital assistants, to autonomous vehicles, to predictive analytics. In our industry, AI can be extremely helpful for improving subscriber Wi-Fi quality-of-experience.

We have been using AI technologies in our broadband product line, Expresse, for many years. Our AI algorithms diagnose broadband issues, automatically optimize performance, and recommend next-best service steps to call center and field technicians. For our CloudCheck product, we have drawn upon these years of AI experience and expertise to manage home Wi-Fi for our service provider customers.

In this post, and its supporting video presentation, we share our AI learnings and cover:

  • The cost of poor Wi-Fi QoE to service providers
  • The role AI plays in-home Wi-Fi QoE
  • The challenges the dynamic Wi-Fi ecosystem makes for managing home Wi-Fi
  • The decision carriers must make regarding their role in managing home Wi-Fi
  • The practical application of AI to improve home Wi-Fi
  • Some requirements for a managed home Wi-Fi solution

The Cost of Poor Wi-Fi QoE

Poor Wi-Fi performance negatively impacts a service provider’s operating expenses. The typical subscriber does not distinguish between Wi-Fi and broadband issues. When subscribers experience poor home Wi-Fi, they call their service provider assuming something is wrong with their internet connection. Often their problem is a Wi-Fi issue.

This table details the cost of service calls. Our customer data, derived from over 100 million customer accounts shows that poor QoE increases the number of these calls by a factor of 4.8.

Support Level Cost Per Ticket
Vendor $471
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AI and Home Wi-Fi QoE

The key to a good Wi-Fi QoE for home users is a sensible QoE score defined by operational, rather than marketing metrics. The most important factors that deliver a high Wi-Fi QoE are:

  • Picking the channel correctly
  • Picking the band correctly
  • Steering devices to the best access point for them
  • Balancing the load when necessary

Mesh networks add a little more complexity due to their need for topology management.

But the scale and dynamic nature of home Wi-Fi environments create a challenge to manage home Wi-Fi QoE. Artificial intelligence helps by:

  • Monitoring all the existing conditions in real-time
  • Detecting any changes
  • Processing and analyzing the data coming from the devices and CPE
  • Learning from what has worked well in similar environments
  • Applying those best-practice learnings to the current home environment

Customers using our AI technology to manage QoE:

  • Improve customer retention 15-20%
  • Improve network QoE 25-35%
  • Improve home Wi-Fi speeds
  • Reduce customer service calls 30-50%
  • Reduce access points with interference 40%
  • Reduce new installation costs 15-20%
  • Reduce field dispatches 44%.

Home Wi-Fi’s Dynamic Ecosystem

As mentioned above, the Wi-Fi ecosystem constantly changes, which makes managing home Wi-Fi QoE a challenge for service providers. Each new technology comes with high expectations for improving home Wi-Fi but creates new issues. The 5GHz band, 11ax, 11ay, and mesh all help in their way, yet home Wi-Fi performance issues persist. For example:

  • The move from 2.4 to 5GHz replaced the noise issues in 2.4 with coverage issues in 5 GHz.
  • The 5GHz band has marginal impact on throughputs—44% of homes still see less than 30 Mbps, which is not enough to handle 4K video streaming, gaming, and multiple IoT and mobile devices.
  • Adding access points, if unmanaged, only improve 2.4GHz by 2.5% and do not impact 5Ghz at a cost of $50-100 per access point.

Going forward, multi-dwelling units, 5G, and the convergence of 5G and Wi-Fi add new challenges.

The Carrier Decision Point

The issues with home Wi-Fi QoE and the challenges created by the dynamic ecosystem force service providers into difficult business decisions that impact their service and brand. They must decide where they focus their resources, do they:

  • Optimize for bandwidth-to-the-device or settle with optimizing to the premises
  • Optimize for dynamic QoE or settle for optimizing for average QoE

The Practical Application of AI

AI technology, when practically applied, makes this decision easier and balances the polarized nature of the decision. AI bridges the gap between the business priorities and the complex physical assets that impact home Wi-Fi QoE. AI technology relieves service providers from making an either/or decision. They can phase capabilities in overtime, based on their business priorities.

As the figure below shows, by adding virtual probes to elements in the physical layer on the left, AI and Data Science optimize home Wi-Fi QoE based on the business priorities of the service provider on the right. Ergodic Spectrum Management is implemented for wireless networks, and Dynamic Line Management for fixed-line networks. Everything is phased in accordance with the business priorities of the carrier.

Home Wi-Fi QoE AI

Home Wi-Fi QoE Solution Requirements

To successfully apply AI to home Wi-Fi QoE in this phased manner, some core technology capabilities are required. These include:

  • Vendor-neutral network element interface across the environment, radio, and spectrum
  • Predictive analytics to dynamically learn and predict network failure and performance patterns, and their impact on customer churn and service requests
  • Real-time diagnostics for all the connections in the network
  • Extended data input from systems beyond network elements such as customer care requests, service offers, etc.
  • Prescriptive analytics to dynamically learn and recommend the best connection profiles for target stability and QoE for proactive care, maintenance, and network design
  • Dynamic layered optimization to dynamically learn, fix, and recommend best connection profiles for target stability and QoE
  • Communication and collection so that all connections are monitored in real-time and detailed diagnostics are triggered based on pre-set QoE events
  • Commitment to standards so that it will work well with new technology advancements in the future

Home Wi-Fi QoE Recommendation

Service providers do not have to settle for rudimentary solutions configured to solve problems based on the lowest common denominator or averages. With the practical application of the right AI solution, they can implement intelligent solutions that learn and adapt to solve a wide range of home Wi-Fi QoE problems in a variety of environments.

To learn more:

 

 


The Future of the Wi-Fi Connected Home

Today’s internet service providers face serious challenges in supporting their customers’ Wi-Fi networks.

  • Accessing the data in existing hardware and software in a siloed ecosystem
  • Providing whole-home Wi-Fi
  • Delivering fast throughput
  • Enabling self-management

Accessing the Data in Existing Hardware and Software in a Siloed Ecosystem

A lot of service providers and device manufacturers need a way to access the information—the hardware and software resources—in the home and the last mile of the network. However, the technology used in the last mile and the home is 10 to 15 years behind the technology used in today’s data centers. And the industry moves slowly, and hardware evolution is a bit stagnant. The net effect is that it is difficult for the industry to launch new technologies, services, and upgrades; and to reduce costs.

Fortunately, there is a growing awareness of the bottlenecks in the ecosystem. One way to break through these bottlenecks is to use standards. Whenever you standardize something, the market explodes, and that’s good for the industry. Another way is to focus on the ecosystem as a whole, rather than on a siloed service-provider-plus-vendor alignment. We need to think about how the different pieces of the ecosystem work together.

This is not just about add-on services; it’s also about the basic service. Bottlenecks reduce speed, reliability, and the ability to offer new services. This problem is on an order of magnitude bigger than launching next-generation Wi-Fi. The ecosystem is locked in, so we have problems of interoperability and competing standards that never get realized.

Providing Whole Home Wi-Fi

A second major challenge is the need for Wi-Fi throughout the entire home. Customers are buying more connected devices, which increases demand for Wi-Fi availability throughout the home. However, about 30 percent of Wi-Fi households have problems with slow speeds, dead spots, and the like. The signal usually fails because of the structure, its walls, and other barriers.

In the past, it was common to have one access point with high-power Wi-Fi. The trend now is for mesh solutions with many nodes that are better placed in the home—big nodes for large spaces and little ones for smaller areas.

Delivering Fast Throughput

Wi-Fi has to be faster, and customers want to be able to measure that speed inside the home. On the average, usable throughputs are only about 20 to 25 Mbps. These are measured figures ASSIA has, and this is a problem that is primarily due to the fact that the ecosystem is siloed.

Enabling Self-management

Consumers want to manage their home Wi-Fi networks themselves. They want a user-friendly system that lets them see how the network is performing and fix it themselves. ASSIA, some operators, and mesh solutions allow customers to troubleshoot their networks on the fly.

The Need for Properly Managed Wi-Fi in the Home

Two major issues for proper management of home Wi-Fi are stability, throughput, and innovation. In response to these issues, we need two things.

A fast, stable connection to the house. We must focus on the last mile of connectivity. The way to address that is to clean up the bottlenecks in the ecosystem, one by one.

Allow providers to innovate. Let’s not add closed layers that create latencies on top of latencies. If the latency is too large, software companies can’t innovate. Instead of opening up the ecosystem, we put up fences, stifle innovation, and shrink the number of vendors. Everyone wants to have the highest performance access to the home. We need standards that help with interoperability and enable innovation in the marketplace.

Supporting High-speed Wi-Fi in MDUs

Providing quality Wi-Fi in MDUs (multiple dwelling units) is a significant challenge, especially when there are multiple providers in the MDU. There would be great advantage in coordinating multiple networks within the same floor and building, both in the front and the back end, and cross-optimizing between the two.

If there is a problem, it is essential to first identify the source or sources of contention—often, there is more than one source. And the environment is dynamic. So, it is important to employ an adaptive solution, which can deliver the right optimization parameters to different kinds of networks in the MDU. This will become even more important in the future. Without coordinating Wi-Fi, it will be hard to solve the capacity problem into the individual home in an MDU.

We Are Meeting These Challenges

ASSIA has two initiatives to meet the challenges of Wi-Fi connected home: Commande and Cloud Management and Diagnostics interface (CMDi).

Commande

This software stack enables data collection and control and provides an interface with a decision-support system and CPEs. Commande is an immediate path to avoid vendor lock-in because once you’re locked in, you’re stuck, and six or seven years out, there is no innovation. For this initiative, ASSIA is working with carriers, and we have a hardware ecosystem partner program with about 15 companies. Learn more about ASSIA Commande.

CMDi

Our second initiative, CDMi, is longer-term. CMDi is an ASSIA proposal for a standard way to define the interfaces for devices and network elements. And we are doing corresponding standards-related work, such as with OpenWrt, RDK, prpl, the Wi-Fi Alliance and Broadband World Forum.

As far as standards go, we don’t play favorites. We support all the open standards platforms and invest significant resources in this support. However, we believe it is essential that we provide the interface level and share our know-how, so the industry has an open ecosystem. Without that, innovation will be much slower.

We built our technology to be vendor-independent. Our goal is to reduce the lead time to enable companies to bring new software and services to market. In that way, we can help make the promise of the Wi-Fi connected home a reality.


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.