Wi-Fi’s Extraordinary Future: The Impact on Wireless Connectivity

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

Posted on October 16, 2015

Wi-Fi’s extraordinary progress needs smart policy to thrive. Wi-Fi physical-layer technology is improving remarkably. Peak speeds are a gigabit or more. Several chipmakers (Qualcomm, Broadcom, Quantenna, Mediatek, Marvell, and others) advertise 1.3 gigabit (peak-speed) .ac chips, while reports of tests cite raw peak speeds as high as 10 Gbps. While these heroic physical-layer speed demonstrations attract attention, the reality of the situation suggests smart policy will be necessary for even small fractions of these peak speeds to be enjoyed in use by consumers of Internet data.

These high-peak Wi-Fi speeds often use much of the existing unlicensed Wi-Fi 5 GHz spectrum to achieve the high advertised speeds (along with several spatial paths of that spectrum). However Wi-Fi uses a “collision protocol.” Collisions are attempts by more than one user/device/thing to use Wi-Fi on any of the access points at the same time. In this case, both “things” must wait a random period of time before attempting to transmit the same data again, leading to significant speed loss and delay in delivery of data. The more devices using the spectrum, the more rapidly the performance decays. It is not unusual for the latest Wi-Fi systems advertised at Gbps speeds to actually provide only a few Mbps to devices in real use.

Wi-Fi speeds can be expected to drop very significantly in neighborhoods and buildings where several Wi-Fi access points are in use with typical numbers of Wi-Fi-capable devices, namely the Internet of Things today, and even more so into the future. Recent field tests of true throughputs in such crowded systems (using state of the art Wi-Fi access points and chips) often see speeds of just a few tens of Mbps, or even less. Super crowded systems, such as the 50M “digital divided” users in the USA who go to public libraries for free Internet connection, will see speeds of less than 1 Mbps at times because of heavy use during busy hours (4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at libraries). Schools also can experience very low speeds from over-use, an issue to be addressed hopefully by recent E-rate allocations for public schools in the USA.

Some solutions for “enterprise environments” (big company sites, hospitals, bank and insurance company headquarters, and so on) require all access points to be from the same manufacturer (see Cisco Meraki, Ruckus Wireless, and/or Ericsson/Belair) and expensively require the use of both manual tuning and automatic tuning specific to that manufacturer. This can lead to significant improvement if no other manufacturers’ systems are within “ear-shot.” However, Wi-Fi by its very nature is unregulated, and recent FCC decisions (see the Marriott case for instance) suggest that single-enterprise supply of Wi-Fi access points violates the law. Residential use in a crowded apartment complex or even urban/suburban neighborhoods lead to the overlap of dozens of access points’ transmissions, often with many different manufacturers’ products in use. Thus, the need for smart policy or use magnifies with increased Wi-Fi use.

Better physical-layer performance and these problems of contention/collision inspire new applications. ASSIA’s CloudCheck first measures and identifies Wi-Fi issues specific to the device, time, and location, while also evaluating whether the remainder of the Internet connection has sufficient speed to sustain the Wi-Fi speed.

Such tools empower consumers themselves to help understand and improve their own connectivity, as well as help regulators and ISPs know the true source of an Internet bottleneck. Statistics generated can help policy makers decide on spectra allocations. When Wi-Fi is not the issue and fixed-line access (for instance DSL) is the bottleneck, Cloudcheck further uses the cloud, when systems are compatible, to bond (combine connections into appearance of a single, faster connection) fixed-line-WiFi connections to connection speeds of hundreds of megabits and more, while avoiding the high cost of fiber to the home (or to the “wristwatch”).

Using fixed line + Wi-Fi means far more homes can receive ultra broadband than would be possible given fiber’s high costs. For instance, an apartment complex of 20 units all with 100 Mbps fiber/VDSL service has a 2 Gbps data rate that can be shared if Wi-Fi systems have some level of smart policy underlying their usage. Essentially, such policy would reverse the contention issues to an efficiency advantage.

Simultaneously, with smart policy today’s broadband home can be rapidly transformed. With 4×4 MIMO and beamforming, home gateways should be able to stream HD and UHD TV throughout most homes with minimal collision/contention issues. However, letting the boxes run full speed selfishly wastes spectra and creates spatial wars among multiple access points. Access point manufacturers (boxes and chips) want to quote the highest speed to potential buyers, but they really have no control over the contention issues, so simply “blast away,” wasting spectra and power, and reducing real speeds to all. Furthermore, it helps no one for a Wi-Fi system to run at 1 Gbps when the fixed-line Internet connection supporting it runs at 10 Mbps, or if the ISP network behind it supports only a few Mbps speed to the application being served to the consumer using the Wi-Fi device.

Gateways can also simultaneously connect literally dozens of devices, which is essential as we connect more things. Current IoT estimates show more than 10 connected devices per home in the developed world, and a rapid increase in smart-device use in the developing world. All phones, as well as most audio players and TVs, now have Wi-Fi. Consumers can hear any music anywhere in the home without wires. This situation only compounds and makes more frequent the incidence of collisions and contention within the Wi-Fi spectra.

The rich ecosystem and near ubiquity of Wi-Fi make it a primary tool for the exciting Internet of Things. Devices like Google’s Nest home thermostats, connected by Wi-Fi, save money. Wi-Fi connected medical equipment and smoke alarms can save lives. Industry economists calculate Wi-Fi’s benefits as high as $200,000,000,000 each year. Recent bidding in the USA for relatively small amounts of licensed spectra saw amounts from a small number of bidders approach nearly $50B.

With Wi-Fi’s great success to date come some great challenges for the future, perhaps with the greatest opportunity to much more cost effectively and spectrally efficiently address the exploding needs with unlicensed spectra.


A Software-Based Approach to Green Broadband

Barry Gray
Senior Vice President, Service Provider Marketing

Posted on November 20, 2014

Energy consumption in the telecommunications industry is staggering. In Europe alone, the Broadband Forum estimates that 50 terawatt hours of electricity are consumed per year for broadband equipment across both fixed-line and wireless.

In relative terms, this amount of electricity meets the annual needs of more than 2.8 million households, based on an average annual consumption of 17,793 kWh across the EU27 group of countries.

Another way to look at it – telecom energy requirements in Europe consume the equivalent output of six nuclear power plants with an average capacity of 880MWe, standard for today’s nuclear power plants in Europe. Now extrapolate these numbers for the rest of the world. The numbers aren’t just staggering – they’re overwhelming!

In telecommunications, even small improvements in energy efficiency can amount to tremendous cost savings, as well as a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Of course, significant effort focuses on the largest areas of opportunity – base stations for wireless providers, and consumer premise equipment (CPE) for fixed line access.

These areas offer tremendous room for improvement, yet the improvements come with significant capital cost for purchasing new equipment, and with a relatively long implementation time to deploy all of the new equipment in the field.

What if a service provider could significantly reduce energy consumption today by using software that manages its network equipment for optimum efficiency? The software simply runs within the service provider’s existing infrastructure, without the cost and expense of purchasing new equipment.

A service provider in Central Europe pursued this type of software-centric strategy using ASSIA’s DSL Expresse Power Management to manage power consumption more efficiently on the company’s DSLAM equipment. The results speak for themselves.

The provider identified energy savings totaling more than €350,000 per year for every million DSLs. Using power management software in conjunction with DSL Expresse Profile Optimization, the provider also improved the customer experience with a more stable network.

Lower energy consumption and a more stable network through software – it’s worth a look! Download the case study to learn more!


Big Data Analytics Is In Our DNA

Barry Gray
Senior Vice President, Service Provider Marketing

Posted on August 18, 2014

ASSIA DSL Expresse collects more than 7TB of performance data every day, 365 days a year, for more than 70 million DSLs around the globe. Using proprietary algorithms, all this data is analyzed by the DSL Expresse system to adjust the settings of each DSL regularly and achieve the optimal combination of speed and reliability.

Performance data is collected directly from the network through standard software agents running on our customers’ DSLAMs (Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer) – the equipment that connects the phone line to the service provider’s network.

For each DSL, the agents collect hundreds of parameters throughout the day and DSL Expresse servers running in the service provider data center or in the cloud automatically query the agent to collect this data for detailed analysis and interpretation by ASSIA algorithms.

More recently, our customers have benefitted from several important developments in ASSIA’s big data analytics capabilities:

• Analysis of real-time data
Real-time data helps departments across the organization to identify and resolve performance issues more quickly and effectively. Expresse Solutions Active Care uses real-time data to help customer service agents address customer issues the first time the customer calls, rather than having to dispatch a technician to investigate the problem or call the customer back after researching the problem in more detail.
• Integration of DSL performance data with data from other operational systems
ASSIA’s analytics solutions integrate DSL performance statistics with data from other operational systems (such as operational support systems, billing support systems, customer relationship management, and technician workforce management). For example, Expresse Solutions Smart Vectoring combines DSL performance, outside plant, and customer data to help sales and marketing organizations identify opportunities for selling higher value services based on vectored VDSL.
• Analysis of Structured and Unstructured Data
In conjunction with structured operational data (typically stored in a relational database such as an Oracle server), ASSIA solutions analyze new sources of unstructured data collected through social media, customer feedback, mobile applications, and other sources. This data provides service providers with an effective way to monitor the customer experience more closely. For instance, the service provider can respond to DSL performance issues in a more proactive manner rather than waiting for the customer to complain to a call center agent.


All of the solutions above rely on ASSIA’s unique expertise in analyzing and interpreting DSL performance data. By extending this analytic insight to encompass data from other operational systems, ASSIA helps customer care agents provide a better customer experience, field service technicians pinpoint and resolve network issues more quickly, and marketing/sales professionals identify new opportunities to grow top line revenues.

Interested in learning more about putting big data to work? Contact us today for more information.

A Gigabit/s to a Billion

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

Posted on June 10, 2014

In a recent webinar organized by the Marconi Society, I was asked if it is possible to deliver broadband access speeds of a Gigabit per second to a Billion people before the end of this decade. My answer was that this is entirely possible with only a modest level of investment, and with only incremental upgrades of the existing infrastructure.

Beginning with the current state of broadband access, the spread of 100 Megabit/s services is already evident. Within 3 years, 24 million Germans shall have highly reliable 100 Megabit/s speeds using vectored VDSL (invented by ASSIA engineers). Soon, they will be joined by millions more in Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, and Australia, as well as by AT&T customers in the USA. Continue reading

Best Practices for Mitigating the Effect of Uncancelled Crosstalk in Vectored VDSL2

Peter Silverman
Director, Standards and Technical Marketing at ASSIA, and Broadband Forum Technical Editor

Posted on May 22, 2014

Offering downstream bit rates in excess of 100 Mbps, Vectored VDSL2 uses state-of-art noise cancelation techniques to eliminate crosstalk between VDSL2 services operating from the same DSLAM in the same cable.

However, there also can be uncancelled crosstalk, i.e. crosstalk that vectoring is not able to cancel.  If not properly managed, uncancelled crosstalk can void the benefits of Vectored VDSL2.

The following illustration shows how uncancelled crosstalk occurs.

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Big Data Analytics for Outside Plant

Barry Gray
Senior Vice President, Service Provider Marketing

Posted on May 5, 2014

While modern software tools continue to advance the performance and sophistication of fixed-access networks, wet or corroded cables present a significant challenge for customer support and outside plant organizations. For instance a single problematic cable can negatively impact several DSLs, generating multiple calls to the contact center. If the contact center is not able to diagnose the issue as cable-related, then the contact center agent often dispatches a field service technician who is not trained or qualified to handle cable-level defects. After multiple calls from multiple customers, the incident eventually escalates to an outside plant technician who identifies the location of the problem using specialized (and frequently costly) test equipment. This series of events can quickly add up to a very expensive problem to diagnose and resolve.

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Internet Hall of Fame Statement: Gigabits to Billions of Users

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

Posted on April 8, 2014

My induction into the Internet Hall of Fame is truly an honor, as is the opportunity I have had to help the Internet evolve and expand its reach around the world. In human history, the growth of the Internet is less than the blink of an eye, yet already we’re realizing amazing potential and endless possibilities achievable through high-performance, cost-effective access to the knowledge and ideas that the Internet provides.

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ASSIA Expresse Solutions Help Service Providers Improve Customer Experience

Barry Gray
Senior Vice President, Service Provider Marketing

Posted on March 27, 2013

Customer experience management (CEM or CXM) is an area of growing strategic importance for corporations today. For broadband service providers, CEM can significantly impact revenues and profitability by creating upsell opportunities within customer accounts; attracting and retaining customers for high lifetime average revenue per user (ARPU); and improving customer satisfaction.

To help quantify customer experience, Forrester Research last year asked more than 7,600 consumers to report on their interactions with 160 brands across 13 categories of companies, including Internet and wireless service providers. Forrester then calculated Customer Experience Index (CXi) scores for the brands.

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The ATIS Dynamic Spectrum Management Technical Report Issue 2: A New Best-Practices Document for DSM and Vectoring

Peter Silverman
Director, Standards and Technical Marketing at ASSIA, and Broadband Forum Technical Editor

Posted on December 24, 2012

Standards evolve from best practices and industry consensus, and a new document that identifies best practices for Dynamic Spectrum Management (DSM), the ATIS Dynamic Spectrum Management Technical Report Issue 2, is an important step forward.  In most parts of the world, fixed broadband service providers have renewed their commitment to DSL and indefinitely deferred significant investment in alternative fixed technologies such as FTTH.

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