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.
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).
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.
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.