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ASSIA’s Approach to Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence

Tuncay Cil and Haleema Mehmood
Team ASSIA

Posted on May 30, 2018

Part 1: A Primer

Introduction

Arthur Samuel in 1959 defined machine learning as the “field of study that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed”. Typically, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are used interchangeably in the industry although AI is a superset concept that is not just limited to machine learning.  Only recently, the advances in cost, processing power and storage on devices and network equipment, have delivered the possibility of AI techniques previously only available for super computer clusters.

In a typical AI/machine learning system for network management, the following steps form the foundations of any prescriptions or predictions that get generated by it:

  • Start with observing a user or a system
  • Describe, categorize and make sense of the observation
  • Attempt to define the behavior of the user or system by establishing a set of baselines
  • Monitor and detect deviations from baselines of defined behaviors
  • Predict future behavior, prescribe trouble-shooting solutions, and self-optimize

Applying these AI techniques to better monitor, detect, troubleshoot and optimize Wi-Fi networks, is part of ASSIA’s core engineering capabilities. While the feasibility of real-world applications of AI techniques is there, the data scientist generalists approach falls short of delivering tangible value to service providers. This is where ASSIA brings real-world performance and value accepted by service providers to the field of AI driven network management.

Basic vocabulary for machine-learning/AI

Data is the input to the overall system and in the context of Wi-Fi management can be anything from physical layer performance metrics, device characteristics and environment, alerts end-user inputs, and Wi-Fi client performance indicators.

A feature is an individual data element relevant to the specific machine learning model and use case. It can be directly extracted from the data or derived after passing the raw data through a pre-processing algorithm. For example, Wi-Fi throughput between an access point and a client can be derived from traffic counters.

A model maps the input features to the desired output or label.  In Wi-Fi management, an output may be the best channel to pick in the user’s environment or the user’s perceived quality of experience score.

Labels augment individual unlabeled data with meaningful tags that are informative. Machine learning models can be applied to the data so that new unlabeled data can be presented to the model and a likely label can be guessed or predicted for that piece of unlabeled data.

Supervised machine learning is a “teaching” technique to develop a relationship between a known set of outputs (labels) and their inputs (features). Once the model is developed, it can be used to predict the output for a new set of inputs.

Training prepares a supervised machine learning model using features extracted from training data along with the appropriate labels. Training can be performed periodically with the update of training data or features.

Unsupervised machine learning is “self-learning,” and no prior training, or preparation is required before it’s deployed. The algorithm automatically discovers relevant structure and relationships among the inputs.

Baselining is a method to determine “expected” behavior for an entity like a user or a system. Once these baselines are established, the models look for deviations from the baselines.

How ASSIA makes machine learning/AI possible

ASSIA’s CloudCheck solution makes AI possible using its agent-cloud architecture. The agent resides on the home Wi-Fi router, collecting the data necessary for meaningful AI. The data is processed and stored in the cloud, allowing for powerful machine learning/AI applications.

For many years, three main issues hindered proper data collection necessary for meaningful cloud-based AI applications in last-mile and Wi-Fi network management:

  • Non-exhaustive platform coverage:There are a variety of CPEs with various chipsets in use in service providers’ networks. It is important to collect data from all types of nodes for network level machine learning. ASSIA solves this problem with its hardware-agnostic CloudCheck agent that provides similar data collection across more than 100 CPE models.
  • Insufficient sampling across time, and network nodes:Overnight data collection that is prevalent in the industry is insufficient for identifying problems in network nodes. Furthermore, it is gravely inadequate for machine learning applications. CloudCheck solves this problem by providing a much higher frequency of data collection. This data is stored and transported efficiently so as to minimize network load.
  • Data collection methods that don’t scale:While trying to collect more data, more frequently, in a more intelligent way, we can’t (yet) assume unlimited computational resources. CloudCheck uses a smart way of mixing event and time triggered data collections that takes into account the dynamic nature of the observed trouble patterns. This resolves the scalability problem of the growing data collection needs without missing critical information.

ASSIA has developed patented data collection techniques that enable application of AI-based algorithms in the real-world environment.

ASSIA’s CloudCheck solution makes use of this data in unsupervised ways to learn baseline behaviors along various dimensions. The learnt policies or thresholds are either fed back to the CloudCheck agent, so it can report deviations from the thresholds to trigger an optimization action, or the policies are used by server algorithms to generate diagnostic outputs. The diagnostic outputs are further used in a supervised learning model that assesses customer satisfaction.

In the next article we will explore specific applications of how ASSIA applies AI and machine learning in Wi-Fi Management. 


What can CloudCheck® solve for the operators?

More than just offering management tools and optimization knobs, CloudCheck helps operators define and address their customer challenges. CloudCheck follows a use-case driven approach, and is purpose built for addressing subscriber issues. Some of the critical operator use-cases are highlighted in bold throughout this article.   CloudCheck does this while driving customer satifcation up and operator costs down.

Deeper visibility into the home for improved customer care.

The proliferation of Wi-Fi devices has extended the last-mile of Internet connectivity further into the home. Operators are now responsible, not only for the broadband service, but also for the user experience on Wi-Fi connected devices. Unfortunately though, operators have little to no visibility into the home networks. CloudCheck provides this visibility by monitoring the Wi-Fi, broadband, and hardware health of the home network and providing diagnostics at various levels of aggregation.

Using machine learning techniques, CloudCheck defines the customer experience in a single Quality of Experience (QoE) Score to help simplify the troubleshooting process and improve customer care efficiency. CloudCheck’s QoE models are trained with call/churn/survey/dispatch data to predict customer behavior and facilitate proactive servicing. For example, consistently low QoE scores can predict customer calls, which allows operators to proactively upgrade those customers to a higher service tier or newer hardware to improve customer satisfaction. Comparing the QoE scores of different groups of customers (e.g. those using router-X vs. those using router-Y) can help the operator with business decisions like vendor selection or new service roll out. Categorical scoring (e.g. Wi-Fi QoE, Broadband QoE, hardware QoE) help identify the category of a problem faced by a customer, and the appropriate fix.  This prevents lengthy service calls and unnecessary technician dispatches.

Improving the wireless performance at home for reducing customer complaints and subscriber churn.

CloudCheck improves customer experience by proactively optimizing the wireless performance of the home network. The band and AP steering solutions work seamlessly over multi-vendor extender/mesh deployments at home to deliver intelligent Wi-Fi roaming for better wireless coverage. With prediction-based channel switching and algorithms to utilize the less-used 5GHz spectrum (DFS channels), CloudCheck improves Wi-Fi speeds and helps in delivering high-speed services (e.g. IPTV) over Wi-Fi.

Broadband services are now being delivered over a mix of technologies, from fiber to DSL to Ethernet to Wi-Fi, and identifying performance bottlenecks (e.g. in the Wi-Fi environment or DSL infrastructure) helps to isolate the problem and apply the proper optimization actions. Hardware stability impacts network performance and identifying faulty hardware using CloudCheck’s system health diagnostics also allows for proactive system and software reboots.

Managing the new challenges from mobile data offloading.

Operators are deploying Wi-Fi hotspots to address the increasing demand for mobile data traffic. Opening home Wi-Fi networks for mobile guest users can congest the wireless network for private in-home users. CloudCheck provides airtime fairness tools that can guarantee QoS for private users by enforcing Wi-Fi level service restrictions on guest connections. As guest network profiles are saved in the mobile phones, private users could connect to the guest network while inside their home. CloudCheck detects such situations and ensures private users are always steered to their private network. CloudCheck can also force low performing guests to roam to a better hotspot or LTE by blocking and/or disconnecting them from the existing guest network.

Enabling self-service and user preferences through a subscriber app.

CloudCheck App’s self-diagnosis features improve user satisfaction by enabling self-help and reducing subscriber dependency on customer service. The popular Wi-Fi SweetSpots feature help’s identify coverage holes in the home and find the appropriate locations to place Wi-Fi access points. The CloudCheck subscriber app also serves as a portal for users to define their service requirements (e.g. monitoring and alerting every disconnection of a Wi-Fi security camera), which can then be merged with the diagnostics policies in the cloud/router, thereby customizing the management policies based on user preferences. As mobile broadband (LTE, 5G) becomes faster, Wi-Fi offloading may not be the default choice due to performance needs. CloudCheck can merge app and router diagnostics to decide whether a mobile device should remain in the LTE environment or switch to a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Adapting to evolving Wi-Fi applications.

CloudCheck can provide application or client specific services based on evolving needs such as voice/video delivery over Wi-Fi and connectivity for IoT devices. CloudCheck can provide targeted optimization for voice/video services such as allocating more airtime for wireless STBs upon detection of video streaming through those special devices. CloudCheck can free up the 2.4GHz band for low-cost IoT devices without dual-band capabilities by steering capable devices to the 5GHz band.

Operators benefit from solving their subscriber problems. With that in mind, CloudCheck looks at call drivers and customer complaints to define critical use-cases and then build the necessary knobs to address them.

Click here to learn more about CloudCheck


Wi-Fi Mesh Extenders: Truth or Hype?

ASSIA
Marketing Team

Posted on May 16, 2018

Introduction

ASSIA recently announced support for the Wi-Fi Alliance EasyMesh™ certification program.  Wi-Fi EasyMesh™ delivers a standards-based approach to deploying multiple access points from different vendors, extending uniform Wi-Fi coverage and enhancing performance throughout a larger service area than is possible with a single access point.

Why is ASSIA endorsing Wi-Fi EasyMesh?  First of all, interoperability is good for the service provider market.  A standards-based approach means service providers can achieve more flexibility and reduce costs, while delivering a consistent Wi-Fi management experience.

The mesh and extender product category has been around for some time, which begs the question why another standard is needed for this device category.  I’d like to provide some perspective around this topic by introducing the Top 3 Myths About Mesh and Extenders

 

Myth #1.  Mesh and Extenders are Equivalent

We often interchangeably refer to repeaters and extenders as devices which will boost, repeat, or extend the Wi-Fi signals to improve coverage in the home.   Residential consumers will often place multiple extenders/repeaters in the home to improve coverage.

However, the broad presence of consumer mesh devices in the market has led to some confusion as to what truly is a mesh network versus a multi-access point or extender based network.

A mesh network is often incorrectly defined as merely a configuration consisting of two or more extenders.   Mesh was originally developed as military-based technology to provide wireless coverage across a wide area.  The IEEE defined a mesh technology called 802.11s, which defined packet routing protocols for forwarding and redirecting packets if wireless nodes were to become inactive. While this technology standard has existed, the industry lacked a true interoperability standard for such devices, and hence implementations become proprietary.

In most  residential deployments, mesh nodes typically get configured in a point-to-point or star topology.   So, in reality, “mesh” deployments are typically not even configured as a true mesh network.  Why should a service provider pay for mesh technology if mesh is not even utilized in a deployment?

Instead, service providers can provide a solution that offers maximum speed/capacity of the backhaul to gateway as well as to stations.   Wi-Fi performance is only as good as the weakest link to the end-user device.  Optimizing performance of the fronthaul and backhaul is also essential for maximizing the gains in an extender environment.

 

Myth #2. Mesh Hardware Eliminates the Need for Wi-Fi Management

We have found in our residential deployments that adding extenders often results in no improvement, and in some cases even results in a loss of coverage in the home.   This often occurs for several reasons.  First of all, extenders are often configured improperly and placed in suboptimal locations in the home.  For example, extenders are often placed where the dead coverage spot in a room is actually located, lacking an adequate backhaul connection to the main gateway or AP.  Extenders can also perform poorly because wireless mesh/extenders can lead to greater congestion in the home due to presence of stronger Wi-Fi signals (RSSI) combined with overlapping channels and bands leading to more interference.  Providing proper Wi-Fi management software tools for extender configuration and placement are essential to maximize the benefits of mesh and extenders.

 

Myth #3. Mesh Extenders are the Panacea for Improving  Wi-Fi Performance

Despite the advances in Wi-Fi technology and standards, achieving reliable and adequate performance throughout the home remains a challenge today.  Service providers lack the diagnostics and visibility into the home and often simply resort to deploying mesh/extenders throughout the house to address performance issues.

However, deploying extenders is effective only if the primary issue affecting performance is due to poor signal strength coverage.  Other factors can impact performance such as interference or noise in the environment.   Simply installing  mesh extenders to address non-coverage related performance problems will only exacerbate the subscriber’s Wi-Fi issues.  Accurate diagnostics and determination of the root causes of performance issues is critical for determining if and when a mesh extender should be deployed.

The Wi-Fi industry has come a long way with interoperability standards.  Mesh and extenders can addresses coverage problems in the home when deployed and managed properly.  With Wi-Fi Alliance EasyMesh™, operators can benefit from standards-based hardware solutions combined with the power of ASSIA’s CloudCheck solution  for network wide residential Wi-Fi management.


A ClearView® on Your Next Best Action

Philip Bednarz
Executive Vice President of Engineering & Operations

Posted on May 9, 2018

Providing a positive internet experience to 100’s of millions of subscribers around the world is a daunting task.   Internet Service Providers (ISPs) combine DSL, Fiber, and Wi-Fi technologies with the goal of delivering reliably fast internet service.   But, when something goes wrong, unhappy subscribers require fast and efficient attention to get them back on-line quickly.   If proper care is not given, a frustrated subscriber is likely to churn to a competing service.

Information Overload

ISPs know they need visibility into how their network is operating.  It’s the only way to identify and solve issues.   Network management tools are deployed to collect, analyze, and correlate terabytes of data on network health, but when an unhappy subscriber is on the phone, a customer care agent only wants to know “What is my Next Best Action?” They need to decide, what is the one thing they should do right now to give them the best chance of getting their unhappy subscriber back on-line.   Traditional network management solutions present page after page of technical diagnostics.  What’s needed is an expert system that quickly processes all available information and comes up with a simple, actionable, next step.  ASSIA’s expert system to deliver the Next Best Action is ClearViewâ.

Understand the Decision Process

ASSIA has been deploying network management tools for 10+ years.  In ASSIA’s experience, customer care tools need a customized fit into the care operation already in place.  Without understanding how a customer care operation works, a good tool – more often than not – has no impact.   That’s why ASSIA works with ISPs to diagram the decision flow used in their care operations.    Using data on call rates, call reasons, actions taken, and finally outcomes, ASSIA analyzes customer care processes and builds a statistical model around how a customer care operation works.   We combine this model with the KPI goals of the ISP.   Is the goal to increase subscriber satisfaction, reduce operating expense, reduce repeat calls, or impact subscriber churn?   With all this information, ASSIA deploys a customized ClearView® expert system to provide the Next Best Action and improve the KPIs.

The ClearView® Approach

After modeling the customer care process, ASSIA finds the important decision points in the call center and field operations customer care flow.  These are the decision points that have an important cost/benefit impact on call center KPIs.   The ClearView® system is deployed to deliver the Next Best Action to care agents and field technicians at these points.   ClearView® relies on technical data and diagnostics about DSL, Fiber, and Wi-Fi connections, but it can also consider information about the subscriber, the service plans they have purchased, their service history, and a host of other pieces of information.   The Next Best Action is chosen from a predefined set of things that care agents or technicians have been trained to do.  Furthermore, a great recommendation is no good if it’s not used.   ClearView® can monitor for compliance in taking the Next Best Action as sometimes the issue is not that the right action is unknown, it’s just that the right action was not taken.

Machine Learning for Even Better Results

Once ClearView® is deployed, that’s not the end of the story, and it’s not the limit of the benefits.   ClearView® continues to analyze its decisions and can optimize its decision process using unsupervised statistical techniques or (with outcome data from the ISP) supervised learning techniques.   The more information exposed to ClearView® and the longer the system is in use, the better the results.

ClearView® has been deployed at ISPs worldwide and provides a variety of benefits today including

  • Reduced call handle times and dispatch durations
  • Reduced no-trouble-found dispatches (dispatches where the technician did not find an issue)
  • Reduced repeat calls and dispatches through verifying the fix after the first dispatch
  • Efficient filtering of dispatch tickets
  • Proactive network rehab to offer higher grades of service
  • Churn reduction through proactive dispatch

Click here for additional information on ClearView®.


Copper or Fiber… is that the Question?

ASSIA
Marketing Team

Posted on May 1, 2018

An Environmental Perspective

As recent as last week, Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News wrote about the trade offs of copper vs. fiber to the home.  In this case it was mostly from an environmental perspective.  This was in response to a report done by the firm Carbon Smart titled “Our Digital Infrastructure Needn’t Cost the Earth”.

New Development….Fiber!

As ASSIA commented in the article it is not whether one installs copper vs. fiber in a new neighborhood.  Clearly most would agree that installing fiber is the best choice for long term bandwidth needs and is a cleaner alternative to mining and installing copper from an environmental perspective.  In summary….new development….go Fiber!

Existing Development….Not so fast! (no pun intended)

Here we have to consider the sunk financial and environment costs vs. incremental costs.  Digging up the street, families’ yards and walls is clearly more disruptive and expensive than continuing to leverage the copper lines already in place.  Fortunately cable and DSL technologies have continued to progress allowing service providers to keep up with the demands of their customer’s bandwidth needs.  In some cases this might be all copper and in other cases a hybrid of copper and optical.

It’s no lie, I can multiply!

It all about the math. As a consumer we want fast internet, but we are only willing to pay so much for it.  In fact, we want to pay less for it.  Look at the trend with content…. we want the content for free or close to it with over the top.  Unfortunately, as demonstrated by some of the failed initiatives for an all fiber networks, the math does not work out.  The cost of ripping up the streets to replace copper with fiber can’t be justified in most cases.

Full Toolbox

Service providers use a toolbox approach for designing the most appropriate broadband solutions for customers’ needs, Alison Diana, editor of Broadband World News told ASSIA.

“Sometimes that does mean all fiber. Sometimes it doesn’t. Tossing out the option of VDSL and G.fast solely on the basis of one pro-environmental consulting firm’s whitepaper seems foolhardy and does not put the customer’s needs first. Operators often turn to G.fast, for example, to meet the high-speed broadband needs of people who live in apartments and historic homes, which cannot have holes bored into them – in part because they’re historic, in part because they’re possibly full of hazardous materials like asbestos,” said Diana, who’s Light Reading publication is focused on fixed broadband.

So what does any of this have to do with ASSIA?

Actually, everything!  ASSIA’s suite of vendor agnostic software platform’s help bring reliable high-performance internet to our homes whether on copper or fiber.  This keeps customer satisfaction high while driving down service provider costs….and the consumers costs down.

What’s wrong with fast, reliable, low cost internet?

Answer (spelt backwards):      gnihtoN


G.fast, MGfast, and Beyond

Ken Kerpez
ASSIA Ph.D., IEEE Fellow

Posted on April 17, 2018

G.fast is now being rolled out by several operators to provide ultra-fast broadband. G.fast can deliver nearly one Gigabit per second (Gbps) on telephone lines and over one Gbps on coax. G.fast provides an economical alternative to Fiber to the Home (FTTH), eliminating the high cost of fibering the last few hundred meters, while still pulling fiber deeper to provide ultra-fast service.

G.fast management

G.fast has many capabilities which enable robust high-speed service over existing and in-home telephone wiring; including:

  • Vectoring to cancel crosstalk
  • Retransmission and coding to correct errors
  • Low-power modes and reverse-power feed (RPF)
  • Many on-line reconfiguration capabilities, including:
    • Seamless Rate Adaptation (SRA)
    • Fast Rate Adaptation (FRA)
    • Robust Management Channel Parameter Adjustment (RPA)
    • RMC recovery (RMCR).

ASSIA works throughout the standards communities to ensure that equipment vendors provide open interfaces for operators to manage such capabilities. Each of these capabilities can be configured in many ways via many operator-configurable parameters. And, these are in addition to the margin, data rate, re-initialization and many other configurations common to DSLs. Further, the downstream:upstream asymmetry ratio of G.fast is configurable and can vary with real-time traffic loads. The G.fast environment is highly variable line-by-line, and to configure each G.fast line for best performance is impossible (unless perhaps an operator recruits an army of Ph.Ds in communication theory). But there is a solution: ASSIA DSL Expresse® is now adapted to automatically configure G.fast for the highest customer satisfaction and fewest trouble calls.

Multi-Gigabit fast (MGfast)

After G.fast, the ITU-T is now defining multi-gigabit fast (MGfast) for applications such as fiber-to-the building, fiber-to-the curb, and feeding small cells. MGfast is expected to have all the capabilities of G.fast and more, while running at multi-gigabit speeds. New duplexing and frame structures are being defined to provide wireline and 5G applications on a single backhaul or fronthaul MGfast line, including ultra-reliable and low-latency communications, and ultra-fast broadband. These traffic types should be supported on separate virtual network slices with the operator-configured boundaries. MGfast management will be even more challenging than that of G.fast.

Waveguide over copper

Beyond MGfast lies a new concept now being studied by a group of ASSIA® researchers: Waveguide over copper, which enables the Terabit DSL (TDSL). This exploits waveguide transmission modes, in particular transmission modes that are efficiently transported on the surface of a conductor such as copper wire. Waveguide over copper runs at millimeter frequencies (about 30 GHz to 1 THz) and is synergistic with 5G/6G wireless. A type of vectoring is applied to effective separate the many modes that can propagate within a telephone cable. Preliminary analyses project that waveguide over copper should support about the following per-home data rates:

100 meters 300 meters 500 meters
1 Tbps (=1000 Gbps) 100 Gbps 10 Gbps

 


Telefonica & ASSIA® Relationship Expands to CloudCheck® Wi-Fi

Alberto Tellado
VP of Sales Southern Europe, Latin America

Posted on April 10, 2018

Telefonica and ASSIA® have worked together for years to bring reliable broadband to millions of homes throughout Latin America.  This includes the use of ASSIA’s DSL Expresse® software for diagnostics and optimization of high-speed DSL networks, GPON Expresse® software for diagnostics of GPON networks, and ClearView® software for precise network analysis and recommendations for customer care agents and field technicians.

Valued Relationship, Talented Team

Telefonica has firsthand experience working with ASSIA’s talented team who are the best in the world at diagnostics and optimization.  The ASSIA team has always highly valued the relationship with Telefonica.

Broadband in Good Shape….what about Wi-Fi?

Although ASSIA’s products helped keep Telefonica’s customers happy with reliable broadband and in return decreased Telefonica’s customer support costs, the growing demand on the Wi-Fi in the home started to become a source of many customer issues several years ago.  This resulted in Telefonica’s review of different Wi-Fi management solutions back in 2016.

Vision or Luck?

Fortunately, ASSIA’s vision of this need with operators around the world was many years before this when it started to invest in a product called CloudCheck®.   The vision, early development, experience with operators and proven expertise in this area resulted in a well architected cloud-based solution that addresses the challenges of today and just importantly the ones of tomorrow.

The Bake Off

This foundation resulted in ASSIA successfully passing many challenging tests and in-depth functionality analysis at Telefonica.   As with other operators around the world that do this type of detailed comparison of the ASSIA CloudCheck product against the other solutions on the market…. ASSIA wins.

Experience up, costs down

The CloudCheck solution is a highly scalable, big-data-analytics, and machine-learning platform that enables Telefonica call-center agents and field technicians proactively to detect and resolve subscriber Wi-Fi issues while automatically optimizing Wi-Fi performance for their subscribers. This improves Telefonica’s customer experience while also driving down support costs significantly.  With the CloudCheck product deployment and ClearView software, Telefonica now has end-to-end network visibility and management from the central office into the home.

Leveraging Existing Investments

CloudCheck is a flexible platform that provides diagnostics and optimization analysis from a variety of data sources throughout an operator’s network.   For high performance, current generation CPEs, the CloudCheck system deploys a software agent to provide the most accurate diagnostics and best performing optimizations.  For the rest of the existing investment in CPE and TR-69 based management systems, ASSIA’s CloudCheck has been developed to use data from these devices and management systems as well to provide a baseline level of functionality.

This says it all…. from Telefonica

In ASSIA’s April 9th Press Release, Eduardo de Santos, Customer Service Delivery Director, Global Network & Systems, Telefonica SA was so kind to provide the following quote:

“Telefonica is transforming its operations towards an optimal Customer Experience. In this transformation process, it is key for us to move from a network approach to a service-customer-centric focus approach; from reactive to proactive processes.  In this context, Telefonica has selected ASSIA’s CloudCheck product for Wi-Fi monitoring and optimization. The maturity of the solution, the unique approach of assessing subscriber Quality-of-Experience (QoE), the extensive expertise of ASSIA in analytics, diagnostics and optimization with products already deployed on the Telefonica network, were all key factors in this decision. Telefonica is very pleased with the current features available in the solution, especially diagnostics and optimization for band steering, support for extenders, and care recommendations for providing better service and support to clients and internal proactive maintenance policies.”

ASSIA is pleased that CloudCheck is currently under commercial deployment in several Telefonica affiliates.


Defining the next Wi-Fi-Revolution

Tuncay Cil
EVP Strategy and Corporate Development

Posted on April 3, 2018

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

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

Completing and restarting another course of Wi-Fi technology cycle

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

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

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

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

Radical change in industry focus

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

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

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

ASSIA’s mission in the Wi-Fi-Revolution

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

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

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

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


Why are key market leaders committing to ASSIA’s vendor-agnostic Wi-Fi and Broadband Management Solutions?

ASSIA
Marketing Team

Posted on March 28, 2018

On March 26th ASSIA announced that three more major operators recently selected ASSIA as  their Wi-Fi and Broadband Management supplier.

These three operators are rolling out ASSIA solutions in 2018 and beyond, providing for up to 25 Million subscriber lines/households over the next several years, with the opportunity to expand over time.  Once deployed, ASSIA’s total number of managed households will be well over 100 million worldwide.

This included a top tier cable operator in North America and two of the world’s largest Telecom companies with operations in Europe and Latin America.

So why are these well known operators selecting ASSIA over other solutions in the market?

  1. The Solution Works – Proven Technology
    1. Both the Expresse DSL/GPON Broadband and the CloudCheck Wi-Fi solutions have been deployed in volume and provide solid returns for ASSIA’s customers providing for a great experience for each of their home subcribers. Remember this is all ASSIA does.  Hardware companies tend not to be as strong at Software.
  2. Hardware Agnostic
    1. ASSIA’s software solutions can work with virtually any hardward platform. This allows operators to use multiple Gateways or DSLAM suppliers and yet be able to standardize on an single powerful agnostic software platform.  Why would an operator want to deal with having multiple interfaces and solutions for their customer care centers?   ASSIA solves that.
    2. Although some of the hardware vendors have their own solutions, ASSIA is open to working with all hardware supplier to support our customers and to form lasting partnerships.
  3. Real Comparisons Done
    1. Most of our customers have formed rigorous selection processes, including extensive and lengthy evaluation and testing. In all cases the provider ultimately determined that ASSIA’s solution was vastly superior.
  4. Growing markets looking for solutions
    1. Whether it is cleaning up Wi-Fi in the home, which everyone can relate to, or the inpractical highly costly deployment of fibre in some of the largest developed markets in the world, ASSIA solutions allow its customers to focus on growth by conintnuing to levereage its current networks.

ASSIA’s CloudCheck® and Expresse® platforms include the best diagnostics and optimization solutions available on the market today.

ASSIA’s vendor- and hardware-agnostic market-leading CloudCheck® Wi-Fi management solution is becoming the de facto Wi-Fi management solution. ASSIA has already deployed this rapidly-maturing solution at multiple service providers – all of which are improving customer experience while driving down customer support costs.  The cloud-based solution manages and optimizes customer in-home Wi-Fi environments to enable improved performance and facilitate Self-Healing, Self-Help and Self-Install capabilities for the home user.  Based on demand from multiple service providers, ASSIA’s CloudCheck is now supported on over 100 different gateway models from the leading vendors.

ASSIA’s Expresse® product line brings superior diagnostics and optimization of high speed DSL and GPON networks.  Over 30 of the world’s leading telecommunications providers use ASSIA’s technology to drive service costs down and improve customer satisfaction.  A list of ASSIA’s current key customers can be found on the ASSIA web site at: https://www.assia-inc.com/customers-partners/assia-key-customers/


Significance of TELUS’s deployment of ASSIA’s CloudCheck® to Manage Residential Wi-Fi

ASSIA
Marketing Team

Posted on March 21, 2018

On March 12, 2018, ASSIA announced in a press release that TELUS deployed ASSIA’s market leading CloudCheck Wi-Fi Management solution across their extensive network in Western Canada, including its advanced PureFibre network.

Why is this deployment at TELUS significant and why ASSIA? 

FIRST, TELUS has been a great customer of ASSIA’s as they deployed the company’s Expresse® “broadband to the home” management solution years ago.  TELUS is familiar with the rich history, technology, engineering talent and execution that ASSIA has demonstrated when it comes to the best diagnostic and optimization capabilities.

SECOND, the CloudCheck product allows TELUS call center agents and field technicians to proactively detect and resolve subscriber Wi-Fi issues, while optimizing Wi-Fi performance for their subscribers.  TELUS and its subscribers take advantage of a highly scalable agent-cloud based architecture that provides real-time diagnostics, self-healing, and optimization of Wi-Fi networks.

THIRD, since TELUS engaged with ASSIA in early 2017, they have already broadly deployed the CloudCheck product.  TELUS’s Director of Internet Products and Business Enablement, Mr. Ghani, spoke of ASSIA in a recent press release, in which he graciously said, “ASSIA’s CloudCheck software enables TELUS’ network operations and customer care teams to gain the visibility they need to diagnose and proactively resolve subscriber Wi-Fi issues. The CloudCheck solution allows TELUS to confidently deliver the high-performance, reliable Internet and Wi-Fi services our subscribers expect.”

So, what is ASSIA’s strategy in the Market with CloudCheck?

Many years ago – and well before others – ASSIA recognized the Wi-Fi management need that was developing.  ASSIA’s solid track record over the years with superior management tools for service providers delivering broadband and this early investment has led to a highly mature Wi-Fi management product among a field of less proven/committed products from others.

While competing solutions might be developing the basic functionality, ASSIA is adding new innovative features/improvements from its rich road map and close customer engagements. Service providers invested in the CloudCheck solution understand the challenges will increase over time with the dramatically increased demand for bandwidth and number of connections on home networks, so they want to see a solid foundation today and committed supplier for the long run.

Unlike the suppliers of many of the alternative Wi-Fi management solutions in the market today, ASSIA’s strategy is to only focus on hardware agnostic software. This enables CloudCheck to support virtually any hardware its telco and cable customers wish to deploy.  This vendor agnostic approach was a key differentiator also with the company’s broadband to the home Expresse software platform.

Although several gateway and chipset providers have included Wi-Fi and SON functionality to some degree today or in the past, our customers recognize CloudCheck’s broad feature set and solution maturity. Most also understood that having a single software management platform across an environment which leverages multiple gateway vendors avoids the complexity of multiple management solutions and interfaces in their customer care centers.   A number of these operators have requested that their hardware suppliers work with ASSIA to allow them to standardize on this one CloudCheck platform.   As a result, ASSIA today supports over 100 different gateway models from the market leading suppliers.

ASSIA values its strong relationship with TELUS as well as other operators around the world and looks forward to continuing to work closely with their teams to offer the best Wi-Fi in the industry today and tomorrow.