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The New Normal: Holiday-level Wi-Fi upload

Tuncay Cil and Sahand Golnarian
Team ASSIA

Posted on March 31, 2020

Remember on Christmas Day when you’re at home and you turn on Skype or Zoom or FaceTime or something else to video-chat with your relatives perhaps for hours on end? Now every day is exactly like that in terms of home Wi-Fi traffic volume and usage patterns.

ASSIA is currently managing Internet and home network connectivity for over 125 million homes worldwide.  The effect on Wi-Fi of the near-global lockdown and working from home trend is clear: We are seeing much higher volumes of data traffic on Wi-Fi networks, much higher levels of interference on the 5 GHz band, and also many more complaints about the quality of uplink connections. Everyday use of residential Internet and Wi-Fi during times of stay-at-home working looks more like our usage patterns and volumes during holidays.

In the last ten days we have been contacted by multiple carriers and service providers to help troubleshoot connectivity issues brought about by the change in usage patterns for home Wi-Fi. The results of our investigations (with a sample size in the tens of millions) point to a uniformly steep rise in upload traffic – even across different geographies and network types – with the upload to download traffic ratio (see graphic at the top) up more than 60%. This represents a two-fold increase over the average usage pattern from before lockdown policies were introduced.

wifi

Figure 1. 80% increase in PC/Phone upload traffic since the beginning of March.

With webcams, laptops, and PCs running video streams all the time home, Wi-Fi networks are uploading data like never before and a lot of teleconferencing, online education, and even telemedicine applications are not working properly due to network problems. Our indicators point to a major shift in usage behaviour: The total Wi-Fi upload traffic – mostly generated by gaming consoles, laptops and PCs – has increased by 80% since enforced stay-at-home policies (lockdown) began for most countries in early March (see graphic above).

Our data shows that the traditional weekday-weekend and time-of-day usage patterns have shifted. With video conferencing happening from home during the week, what used to be weekend traffic profiles are now taking place all through the week. We are also observing a 4-hour earlier start to peak upload traffic patterns during the day.

wifi traffic

Figure 2. Weekdays are now showing weekend level uplink use.

wifi traffi

Figure 3. Upstreaming behavior shows a 4-hour earlier start.

Network interference jumps

Add to this that radio network interference worsening as Wi-Fi becomes the dominant connection to the Internet. Recently FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed that the US release the full 6 GHz band to unlicensed use – including Wi-Fi of course – based on the idea that existing Wi-Fi spectrum may soon be insufficient to support Wi-Fi traffic growth.

ASSIA’s findings on increased interference constitutes strong evidence in support of the proposed new spectrum policies of the FCC and Chairman Pai: Interference on the 2.4 GHz band was already high before the March lockdown but has since jumped another 10%. Even more remarkable is that interference on the 5 GHz band is up 30% since the start of the lockdown.

Network demand could lead to ‘premium home services’

Many home Wi-Fi service providers have been in need of effective home Wi-Fi management even before the lockdown. This need has now been greatly amplified and has changed in nature due to the increase in connectivity challenges for teleconferencing type applications, which are critical to the continuation of our productive lives during the lockdown. Carriers design and provision networks based on assumptions about usage and the mix of upstream and downstream traffic. We are now seeing shifts in traffic profiles that mandate a fundamental change in those assumptions.

But the behavior stressing networks in the short term will also drive demand for improved access technologies in the medium term. We could soon see the emergence of a new class of service, such as for example a premium residential service. Such services might be similar to what is today offered as enterprise-grade connectivity and would be targeted to serve work-from-home devices. The ability to identify, monitor, and prioritize such devices will become increasingly important from now on.


Wi-Fi is Mission-Critical Infrastructure for Life

Tuncay Cil, CSO, ASSIA
Ken Kerpez, IEEE Fellow, Head of Standards, ASSIA

Recent chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in our work, education, communication, and healthcare infrastructure in many ways. As massive numbers of people have no choice but to continue their lives from home, the home network has become the lifeline of connectivity. Issues related to speed, coverage, security, and reliability of the home network have become visible during video conference calls, online classes, and telemedicine visits. We believe proprietary data control and collection systems cause most of the inefficiencies and lack of coordination between applications and networks. To break the silos of incompatible home networking devices and management systems, a group of companies are now accelerating standardization efforts of open ecosystem friendly reference designs and standards developments.

ASSIA is helping to move Wi-Fi Alliance, BBF, and prpl standards forward and is furthering cloud management of Wi-Fi with the proposal for a Cloud Management and Diagnostics interface (CMDi). This is to fill in the gaps in existing data models, add flexible reporting such as variable data collection frequencies, and provide further glue to existing standards for true cloud management and control. This work aims to fulfill the need for advanced home network management—including real-time diagnostics and optimization—particularly for the critical Wi-Fi link. Wi-Fi Alliance EasyMeshTM provides an open ecosystem for deploying multiple APs to provide whole-home Wi-Fi coverage. Wi-Fi Alliance Data ElementsTM standardizes important, relevant diagnostics data reporting from both multi-AP and single-AP deployments.

The Broadband Forum (BBF) has developed the successor to TR-069, the User Services Platform (USP), which is standardized in TR-369. USP is more agile and flexible than TR-069, providing real-time data and control. USP supports virtualization across the WAN to the cloud, and is being extended to an internal interface to support agents on devices. USP uses the extensive data models already defined by the BBF, including the Wi-Fi data model in TR-181, which was recently extended to include Wi-Fi Data Elements and additional multi-AP objects.

The prpl Foundation is developing an opensource reference platform to advance these standards, including prplMesh and joint work with the BBF. ASSIA is committed to bridge the gap among multiple standards in data collection and control frameworks and help enable a truly open application ecosystem for mission-critical infrastructure for home networking.

Read the Press Release “ASSIA Joins prpl Foundation to Make a Vendor-Neutral Wi-Fi Management Ecosystem a Reality


ASSIA’s IP, expertise, and products are ensuring business-grade reliability over residential internet connections to support life-critical applications

John M. Cioffi
CEO and Chairman of the Board, ASSIA

Posted on March 20, 2020

CEO John Cioffi shares ASSIA’s top priorities during COVID-19 epidemic

During this demanding time, ASSIA’s top priorities are to ensure the safety and continued productivity of our employees and to support the continuity of operations at ASSIA’s many large service provider customers globally.

In a matter of two weeks, a massive number of people have continued their employment from home, and their home networks have become the lifeline of connectivity to their colleagues, customers, co-workers, and investors.

A new generation of applications such as teleconferencing, tele-medicine, and tele-education have quickly become mission-critical tools for continuity of business and life, all operating over residential internet connections. These applications bring challenges to residential internet connections. Issues related to speed, throughput, stability, coverage, security, and reliability of the home network have become visible during video-conference calls, online classes, and tele-medicine portals.

ASSIA has worked with our large number of ecosystem partners, customers, and application providers to help quickly deliver the expertise and solutions necessary to bridge the gap in reliable connection management across access and home networks.

Today, ASSIA’s technologies are being used to ensure reliability of internet and home network connectivity on over 120M household connections and devices worldwide.  ASSIA’s entire workforce has rallied to ensure the reliable operation of residential connectivity for as many as we can.


Future of the Wi-Fi Ecosystem

Today, Wi-Fi is a major bottleneck for high-speed broadband delivery. The statistics are disconcerting, to say the least:

  • About 30 percent of Wi-Fi households have problems with slow speeds, dead spots and the like
  • Half of the homes experience high noise and interference at the 2.4GHz band
  • The actual throughput for 80% of homes with the 5GHz band is under 100Mbps
  • 35% of homes with the 5GHz band have severe coverage issues
  • 10% of them get less than 10Mbps throughput
  • And adding unmanaged access points has little or no effect on the problem

One reason is the nature of Wi-Fi itself. It’s a volatile spectrum, with frequent spikes that affect quality. Another reason for the poor customer experience is the increased demand because of the sheer number of connected devices.

And poor quality results in unhappy customers and higher service costs. Most of the calls to customer service are about low-quality Wi-Fi experience.

Handling those calls is expensive. It costs anywhere between $20 to a few hundred dollars to handle a ticket, depending on the support level needed. That can be a big hit to the bottom line.

The Players in the Wi-Fi Ecosystem

With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that the future of the Wi-Fi ecosystem is changing. To get a perspective, let’s look at three traditional players affected by this evolution: the carriers, system vendors and chipset vendors.

Carriers

For the most part, carriers now accept that Wi-Fi is their responsibility. Increasingly, they also see it as a path for increasing revenues (from offering more services) and for transforming their operations (by improving the quality of experience and reducing expenses). After all, Wi-Fi is the backbone for services like ambient computing, with its promise of a more integrated, intelligent house.

System Vendors

Over the past few years, system vendors have seen their industry become more competitive. The more established vendors, in particular, are challenged to differentiate their products and services, which have been in the market for a long time and have not evolved with the times.

Chipset Vendors

The third major player, the chipset vendors, traditionally called the shots. They determined who worked with which carrier in their ecosystem. Today the industry is more competitive. Several established vendors are trying to protect their ecosystems while newer players, which want to grow their share of the market, are trying to open the industry up. Moving forward, it seems that chipset vendors need to adopt a better data model that embraces standards and interoperability.

All of these players, carriers, system vendors and chipset vendors must evolve to be a part of the future of the Wi-Fi ecosystem.

Critical Factors for the Future of Wi-Fi Ecosystem

So that’s where we are today. Looking forward, we see three major areas that can impact the future of the Wi-Fi ecosystem: standards, network management and Wi-Fi 6.

Standards

With the market in so much flux, players need to view the ecosystem as a whole rather than focus on individual siloes. We need to think about how the different pieces of the ecosystem work together.

Of course, that requires interoperability, which demands a commitment to standards. Such a commitment would also substantially reduce the bottlenecks described above.

ASSIA supports all the open standards platforms and invests significant resources in this support. Proprietary solutions lock companies in, which makes it difficult for carriers to evolve, innovate, and incorporate emerging standards such as Wi-Fi 6 and mesh.

Today, because so few vendors adhere to standards, we have to test every version of the chipset and Wi-Fi driver to find out how they work on the middleware and/or CPE. We spend a good deal of our time solving interoperability problems because of the lack of standardization. The industry would be stronger if all of us were free to work on much more high-value-added services.

We think that carriers should always require the newest and best standards when they buy new CPEs or other devices. That’s how we can make some progress. Otherwise, vendors will take the least-expensive path, which is typically developing their own devices.

Cloud Management

There is a lot of discussion about Wi-Fi management, about the best way to assure the stability and throughput of the bandwidth. We believe that cloud management is the best way to holistically monitor, diagnose and optimize the home-internet and Wi-Fi service.

There are many operational benefits from managing a Wi-Fi network in the cloud. With cloud management, you can collect a huge amount of data, which can be correlated with real-live quality indicators to improve the models and algorithms, whether locally or in the edge. This is the best way to assure that all the systems and devices of the Wi-Fi network can interoperate, scale and evolve with technology and industry standards. Moving Wi-Fi management to the cloud will positively impact the future of the Wi-Fi Ecosystem.

Wi-Fi 6 and Mesh Networks

Finally, we need to discuss Wi-Fi 6 and mesh networks.

Some say Wi-Fi 6 is the most important iteration of wireless technology since Wi-Fi began.

Surely, Wi-Fi 6 will be an improvement and will offer significantly higher maximum data rates. However, the problem with Wi-Fi networks is not the maximum rate. As mentioned earlier, most devices do not transmit data anywhere near that rate. Reducing the network bottleneck is a much bigger issue than launching the next generation of Wi-Fi.

Of course, Wi-Fi 6 will help—probably a lot—but not right away. It won’t be a revolution; it will be an evolution. Face it, we are only now seeing the benefits from Wi-Fi 5 because it’s taken this long to get mainly Wi-Fi 5 end-user devices out there. So it will be a while before we see the impact of Wi-Fi 6.

As for mesh networks, they bring value but will not have a big impact. They really only make sense if there are more than two access points, and there are few multi-access households today. And a mesh installation is almost of no benefit if not managed properly. The real value is in the software.

Recommendations for the Future of the Wi-Fi Ecosystem

It’s clear that the future of the Wi-Fi ecosystem is in flux. Right now the network suffers from a serious bottleneck. Few people enjoy the data rates that will be needed for ambient computing to flourish. Carriers are increasingly burdened by the high cost of customer service.

For Wi-Fi to truly meet its potential, carriers, system vendors and chipset vendors need to focus on end-to-end delivery, rather than on segment delivery. That requires the industry to adopt standards that will enable devices and services to interoperate. Managing these devices from the cloud will also ensure their long-term viability.

If you are interested in learning more:


The Future of the Wi-Fi Connected Home

At the recent Wi-Fi Now World Congress International in London, Tuncay Cil, ASSIA’s Chief Strategy Officer, participated in a panel discussion on “The Future of the Wi-Fi Connected Home.” He shared the stage with Thomas Drijfhout, Senior Commercial Product Manager at KPN, a Dutch telecommunications company, who represented the operator point of view; and Alex Qi, co-founder of Mercku, a Canadian-based developer of mesh Wi-Fi devices, who represented the device side.

This post will cover the top takeaways from the discussion in the areas of:

  • Major Challenges with Home Wi-Fi
  • The Need for Properly Managed Wi-Fi in the Home
  • Supporting High-speed Wi-Fi in MDUs

The Major Challenges with Home Wi-Fi

The four major challenges for home Wi-Fi are:

  • 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-Fihouseholds 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 and throughput, and innovation. In response to these issues, we need two things.

  • First, we need to provide 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.
  • Second, we need to 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.

ASSIA is Meeting These Challenges of the Wi-Fi Connected Home

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.


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

ASSIA
Marketing Team

Posted on December 4, 2019

Artificial Intelligence (AI) receives a lot of hype these days. The tech industry uses it in chatbots, home digital assistants, contact center platforms, and social media, to name a few. In this blog, we cut through the hype and take a pragmatic, real-world look at how AI improves home Wi-Fi QoE.

ASSIA has used AI 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 use our years of AI experience and expertise to manage home Wi-Fi for our service provider customers.

In this blog, 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 OpEx. The typical subscriber does not distinguish between Wi-Fi and broadband issues. So, when they experience poor home Wi-Fi QoE, they call for service, assuming something is wrong with their internet connection when it is often a Wi-Fi issue. The table below details the cost of these service calls, and our customer data shows that poor QoE increases the number of these calls by a factor of 4.8.

Support Level Cost Per Ticket
Vendor $471
Field Support $196
Level 3: IT (apps, networking, NOC, etc.) $85
Level 2: Desktop Support $62
Level 1: Service Desk $22

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 factors that deliver a high Wi-Fi QoE are pick the channel correctly, pick the band correctly, steer the devices to the best access point for them, balance the load when necessary, etc. 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 ASSIA’s AI technology to manage QoE improve customer retention, network QoE, and home Wi-Fi speeds and reduce customer service calls, access points with interference, new installation costs, and field dispatches. You can see the aggregated improvement numbers from our customers on the ASSIA home page.

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 APs, if unmanaged, only improve 2.4GHz by 2.5% and do not impact 5Ghz at a cost of $50-100 per AP.

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

We at ASSIA believe that 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:

 

 


Best In-home Wi-Fi Product Winner: TalkTalk and ASSIA

We were very honored that the Wi-Fi Now Award judges awarded ASSIA and its customer TalkTalk the Wi-Fi Now 2019 Award for the Best In-Home Wi-Fi Product. TalkTalk’s game-changing Wi-Fi Hub uses the ASSIA CloudCheck platform to optimize internet to the home and Wi-Fi within the home. The award “honors the vendor creating the in-home Wi-Fi experience that all consumers want: Great Wi-Fi in every room of the house for all of your devices, all the time.”  The winners of the Wi-Fi Now 2019 Awards were determined by an independent board of judges and were announced at the Wi-Fi World Congress International Expo and Conference in London, UK on November 12th.

How TalkTalk Gave In-home Wi-Fi Consumers Great Wi-Fi in Every Room for All Devices and Services

TalkTalk realized that having the best, most reliable, and uncongested IP/MPLS network compared to your competitors is irrelevant to consumer perception if paired with a poor investment in Wi-Fi hardware and management. So to create the best in-home Wi-Fi product, TalkTalk developed its game-changing Wi-Fi Hub through a combination of customer feedback, academic direction, and strong partnerships to deliver to its customers their most sophisticated home gateway to date and provide the strongest connection in more corners of the home than ever before.

Despite the fantastic advantage that the Wi-Fi Hub would bring its customers, TalkTalk recognized that fantastic Wi-Fi hardware on its own would not suffice to create the best in-home Wi-Fi product or deliver the best quality of experience (QoE) to its customers. So, from the start, TalkTalk worked with its trusted connectivity partner, ASSIA, to deploy its Wi-Fi diagnostic and optimization software, ASSIA CloudCheck.

CloudCheck uses Machine Learning (ML) algorithms to predict key QoE parameters on individual Wi-Fi links between an AP and device without the need for software probes on both ends of the link. As a result, TalkTalk has real-time and historical views of millions of devices simultaneously and accurately, ensuring optimum performance and diagnostics into the home environment and empowering the end-user with its rich insight.

TalkTalk’s Use of Unique, Advanced Technology

TalkTalk selected a Broadcom based 4×4 AC2200 solution built by Sagemcom and sought leading industry expert opinion and test services from the likes of the University of Bristol Electrical Engineering team to help design, optimize, and test the best radio array. This was coupled with laboratory interoperability and environmental testing by the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab and Cartesian, which included running performance tests to the criteria of the latest Broadband Forum TR-398 in its development stages. This ensured the device was the best in-home Wi-Fi product, and no component lacked in appeal or magnificence.

The testing, benchmarking, and customer feedback showed that the device delivered the in-home experience customers demand from their service provider, but the evaluation and progression cycle didn’t stop at the initial development. With cooperation between TalkTalk, ASSIA, Sagemcom, UNH-IOL, and many other industry experts, the in-life experience was constantly evolved through in-depth Wi-Fi and device management learning from real-world deployments.

Collectively, this led towards the device scoring the highest in independent 3rd party performance testing, the highest customer satisfaction scores, and several independent product recommendations—such as the Which? Best Buy award for consumers and being recognized as the Best In-home Wi-Fi Product by Wi-Fi now judges.

In addition, ASSIA CloudCheck incorporates new artificial intelligence-based algorithms that relate operational network stability metrics to consumer QoE in its diagnostics and optimization methods. Using TalkTalk’s operational data (ex: customer call and dispatch rates), the AI-based algorithms run two learning loops for diagnostics and optimization, and both loops work to maintain the maximum stable data rate on a given link.

CloudCheck uses machine learning (ML) in its proactive care, proactive maintenance, churn predictor, and service-level upsell predictor features. Now, instead of waiting for a subscriber to have a poor quality of experience and contact customer support, CloudCheck will alert TalkTalk to either proactively solve the upcoming problem for the subscriber or contact the subscriber to coach them through self-help to prevent the poor quality of experience. CloudCheck is even able to automatically resolve some QoE problems, including switching devices to different access points to balance loads and switching the frequency band or channel the device is using.

CloudCheck Directly Enhances the Consumer’s Wi-Fi Experience

When considering the technical performance, TalkTalk has enjoyed the return on its investment through the highest benchmark results from independent sources.

Ultimately, performance in the real world matters most, and again, TalkTalk has reaped the benefits on the commitment to strong partnerships by realizing the lowest PTC by device, the highest CSAT/NPS, and the lowest OPEX through better first-time fixes, a reduction in unnecessary or incorrectly assigned truck rolls, and unnecessary equipment replacements.

These real-world benefits and the recognition as the best in-home Wi-Fi product are primarily attributed to TalkTalk’s integration of ASSIA CloudCheck which performs over 20 million optimizations a day.

So far, TalkTalk has seen a:

  • 8% increase in average active throughput on 2.4GHz and 5GHz
  • 20% reduction in Wi-Fi interference
  • 23% increase in the number of stations that mainly operate in 5GHz band
  • 9dBm average RSSI gain
  • 30% of gateways with severe coverage issues had no coverage issues after optimization

Thanks to the continuous data collection and reporting to the cloud, particularly troublesome issues such as time-of-day problems, faulty CPE devices, and intermittent annoyances are automatically monitored and diagnosed without the customer having to do anything.

Growth Potential for the TalkTalk and ASSIA Best In-home Wi-Fi Product

In TalkTalk’s UK market, Wi-Fi and broadband supply and performance requirements are equally tantamount with one another. Providing a Wi-Fi access point that outperforms its rivals’ offerings, exceeds customer expectations, and can be provided to the majority of its new customers for free, entices new customers which is important to facilitate growth.

Wi-Fi Hub’s crown of ASSIA CloudCheck keeps customers’ Wi-Fi performance at its best, builds satisfaction, and reduces TalkTalk’s operating costs through lower support overhead and other costs associated with sub-optimal performance. The additional upfront investment in best-in-class hardware and Wi-Fi management capabilities pays off through a reduced total cost of ownership over a customer’s lifecycle with customer satisfaction levels that can only be achieved with such an investment.


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. 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. Broadband Forum and 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
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 the Guide to Cloud-based Wi-Fi Management Standards

To learn more, we encourage you to download the “Guide to Cloud-based Wi-Fi Management Standards”.

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


ASSIA Participation in Standards Organizations

ASSIA
Marketing Team

Posted on September 4, 2019

ASSIA wants its 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 ASSIA actively participates 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, cloud-management, DSL, PON (fiber), and G.fast, and future technologies such as G.mgfast.

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.


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 July 18, 2019

In 2019 we are celebrating 20 years of Wi-Fi, 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. Looking forward, I’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 consumers pay 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

ASSIA saw deployments of our Wi-Fi management solution, CloudCheck, triple in 1Q2019, so I 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:

  • Streaming videos from their device anywhere they are
  • Making phone calls via Wi-Fi and messaging apps
  • Shopping online
  • Conducting business using cloud apps
  • 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 the recently announced 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 Alliance, Broadband Forum, NICC, ITU, and ETSI.

3. EasyMesh Will Offer Agility and Freedom to Service Providers

EasyMesh is one such standard that defines a standard 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 free service providers from having to bring 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, our dependency on the chip manufacturers has held the industry back and been a major obstacle to growth of the 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, ASSIA has 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, ASSIA will be able to make our solution work from the gateway to any device. We expect to see this really take off as EasyMesh R2 gets finalized at the end of 2019. That is when we expect to see a lot of 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 ASSIA is working to make it a simple software upgrade from our current solution to EasyMesh R2.

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 (for 60 and 100 LU’s), ASSIA is 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.

ASSIA is 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, ASSIA is working with service providers with our combined solutions which not only optimize broadband to the home but also broadband in the home and we are now developing solutions for broadband 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.