Tag Archives: Wi-Fi Standards


7 Factors Driving Future of Home Wi-Fi

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

Posted on June 8, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. EasyMesh Will Offer Agility and Freedom to Service Providers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Future of Home Wi-Fi Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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


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:


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

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

The Present Situation: The “Crossroads”

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

Evolution of Competition and OTT Technology

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

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

CPE Management Standards and Open Source Initiatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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