Mesh Wi-Fi Gaining Ground in the US

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WiFi symbol in highlight concrete wall.

Mesh WiFi continues its invasion of US WiFi with a new deployment by Atlantic Broadband, the US cable subsidiary of Canada’s Cogeco, which offers TV, internet, and phone services to 246,000 homes in 5 US regions, which bills itself as the 9th largest cable operator in the US.

This is another Mesh WIFi US deal after the Frontier Communications deployment of WiFi Mesh architecture across its 2.5 million broadband customers.  By monitoring traffic speeds on WiFi in each home, home broadband customers can look at visualizations of WiFi streams in a home, and where one is causing problems move it to another Access Point in the mesh (client steering) even if that’s in a different piece of spectrum (2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz).

Back in January Comcast beat AT&T to the punch when it launched an in-house solution for its own WiFi, stating at CES that 10 million of its customers will these kinds of abilities in the first half of 2017, a number expected to rise to 15 million by the end of 2017.

It allows anyone who has an Xfinity Wireless Gateway to down-load an app that can “peek” into how the WiFi in the home is do-ing and be able to cut off devices or put WiFi to sleep for the night.

The service is a cloud based platform, managed by a smartphone app, which allows people to add devices, pause device use during dinnertime, pair WiFi extenders to boost signal strength and use voice controls to see who’s on the network.

Since then Arris, SoftAtHome and Google have all come out with multiple AP systems (some mesh, some not) which give far better coverage in the home, and more importantly this type of end user control. Nokia has announcement something like it this week.

Unlike traditional WiFi, which relies on a single WiFi Access Point (AP) on a home router, Atlantic Broadband will use multiple Mesh APs to create an intelligent WiFi network with faster connection speeds and more consistent performance, using the Air 4920 from AirTies which includes Client Steering to ensure devices continually connect to the best available AP and the best frequency bands (2.4GHz or 5GHz).

A recent survey of 1,050 respondents in the U.S. and UK, with multiple WiFi users per home, commissioned by AirTies and conducted by Qualtrics, found that the majority of consumers would consider upgrading their Internet service plans, or paying extra, for a premium WiFi experience that improves performance throughout the entire home. In addition, 78% of consumers said they would prefer if their ISPs provided them with their in-home WiFi networking gear, versus purchasing it themselves.

In the meantime, the far larger Cable One, billing itself as the 7th largest cable operator in the US, also announced a new premium WiFi service, called WiFi ONE. We understand that the router has been supplied by Actiontec, and uses a 4×4 MU-MIMO chip, which comes with the option of MoCA connected extenders.

This means individual homes can purchase a second WiFi repeat-er which freshens up the WiFi signal in other rooms. This goes with its new 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps broadband product line.

Cable ONE has also just acquired NewWave Communications for $735 million which will see it grow from 650,000 homes to around 1.2 million. Both Atlantic’s and Cable ONE’s new WiFi systems are engineer installed we are told, though we understand that the AirTies Mesh is self-configuring and was designed to be end user installed.

This article was slightly modified from its original version published in Rethink Faultline.

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Peter has been involved in technology for 35 years, and is now the Lead Analyst at Faultline, a digital media research service offered by Rethink Technology Research. In his work at Faultline Peter has built an understanding of wired and wireless Triple Play and Quad Play models including multiscreen video delivery, taking in all aspects of delivering video files including IPTV. This includes all the various content protection, conditional access and digital rights management, encoding, set tops and VoD server technologies. Peter writes about all forms of video delivery is fascinated with the impact IP is having on all of the entertainment fields, and calls his service Faultline because of the deep faults which can devastate large established companies operating in the fields of consumer electronics, broadcasting, content delivery, content creation, and all forms of telecommunications operators, as content begins to be delivered digitally. Peter is currently advising major players and start up ventures in this field, and has both written and validated business plans in the area.

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