Ahead of IBC show, AirTies gets in early with advanced WiFi mesh

The broadcasting industry’s massive annual event, the IBC trade show, starts on September 14, and looks set to continue the theme, which was strong at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, of increasingly intelligent, software-driven WiFi.

A line-up of products is being launched and tweaked to help operators and broadcasters cloak consumer homes in this new generation WiFi.

One company which has pioneered mesh networking and client steering, before a handful of others came along with copycat retail versions, is Turkish specialist AirTies. It unveiled two new WiFi mesh products last week which should grab a healthy amount of attention in Amsterdam next month.

AirTies has launched a 2.5Gbps WiFi mesh access point (AP), the Air 4930, plus a 4K UHD IP set-top which doubles as a WiFi AP, called the Air 7420.

Both new products support 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi with 4×4 Wave 2 multiuser MIMO (MU-MIMO) on Broadcom silicon (the BCM4366E and the BCM43217, one for each band). AirTies uses an older 802.11n 2×2 chip for the 2.4 GHz band in the set-top, presumably to keep the price down. All of this will incorporate AirTies’ secret sauce software, which aims to ensure devices stay connected to the best available APs and bands in order to maximize quality of experience and spectral efficiency.

WiFi-oriented RFPs from major operators these days often cite a requirement for 100Mbps everywhere in the home, and AirTies says it has been meeting that with its predecessor product, the Air4920. The new Air4930 takes that to a new level, the company claims, getting to between 150Mbps and 200Mbps everywhere in the home.

Broadcom launched its BCM4366E top end chip, which powers the AirTies product, last October, adding MU-MIMO and something it called ‘DoubleZero Acceleration, which bypasses the host processor for some applications to speed response. In addition,  RangeBoost adds a further 9dB of receiver sensitivity using advanced signal processing.

It’s worth remembering that Broadcom’s sworn enemy in WiFi, Quantenna, also recently licensed the AirTies mesh software for operators – hinting at a licensing deal at one or more Tier 1 accounts in the US. A big announcement may be waiting on the back burner until IBC kicks off.

There is an interesting technology included in both new AirTies products, which has not been developed inhouse, called Zero Wait DFS (Dynamic Frequency Selection) – part of the 802.11ax standard, which is starting to creep into pre-standard chips (11ax, which particularly focuses on device density in crowded environments, will be ratified next year).

The new feature allows the radios to go full speed, while performing a Channel Availability Check (CAC). In the event that a channel gets congested or has interference, this makes for a rapid channel switch. In the past AirTies had to write its own software to store channel states, and find spare resource to sniff each channel. In a MU-MIMO set-up, any one of four antennas can do the check, any time. DFS uses channel hopping – meaning an AP can scan ahead for a channel with less congestion, while remaining connected to the existing channel. It stores the channel states and then the device can make the switch to a less congested channel in a near seamless manner when interference is detected.

AirTies was the first to use frequent DFS in software, but the standards bodies now look to have caught up with that and dropped the capability into hardware. DFS scanning requirements first came out as part of the first 5 GHz WiFi standard 802.11a in 1999, and the revised technology has become a critical component of 802.11ac today, protecting systems from RF interference.

It was back at CES when AirTies explained to Wireless Watch’s sister service, Faultline Online Reporter, about its strategy to avoid a conflict of interests with operators, by transitioning from a retail model to a B2B-centric one. Now, with its new product lines and its double whammy of major chip licensing deals, the ball is back in the park of Israeli rival Celeno, which claims to have a Tier 1 account coming in the US. Meanwhile, all eyes will be on the activities of the major US and European operators and chip players come mid-September.

AirTies’ mesh networking and client steering technologies come part and parcel of both new products, as well as the AirTies’ Remote View cloud-based performance monitoring system, which supports installers and network engineering teams.

Long term security partner Verimatrix has landed its VCAS (Video Content Authority System) Ultra Security architecture on the Air 7430 set-top, which supports HEVC, VP9 and HDR and comes with 2GB of RAM. Having the AirTies mesh networking and client steering software on board a set-top saves the cost of having an extra WiFi extender.

AirTies says that an operator can now combine APs based on Quantenna and Broadcom technology in a WiFi home system. Operators could use the very powerful Quantenna 8×8 MIMO chips, or one of the slightly less powerful 4×4 options, or even a dual-mode system (8×8 plus 4×4). These can now be paired with less developed, cheaper Broadcom chips. That way they can get the best of both worlds and run the software-based mesh across all of a home’s access points. AirTies software can currently support up to six APs in a single home mesh.

The Turkish firm’s CTO and co-founder, Metin Taskin, said: “Outdated WiFi is a major cause of frustration for subscribers and operators alike. Whether it’s for consistently fast internet connections for every device in the home or delivering quality 4K UHD video streams to IPTV set tops, it’s clear that WiFi mesh is essential for today’s super-connected homes. Our new Air 4930 and Air 7430 products provide service providers with the ability to stream 4K UHD video, improve whole-home coverage, leverage real time home network performance data, and clearly differentiate their WiFi offers from the competition.”

In other pre-IBC WiFi news, US network equipment vendor Calix says it has launched the first mesh-enhanced carrier class WiFi solution designed specifically for communications service providers. Calix is delivering what it calls mesh-enabling software upgrades to its GigaCenter solutions, available for all GigaCenter deployments and remotely managed with Calix Cloud – enabling video and gaming streaming applications to run at optimal performance throughout the home.