AirTies counters Plume via Broadcom, should seek more silicon

Just prior to the holiday break, AirTies, Turkey’s Smart WiFi market leader – with huge installs at AT&T in the US and Sky in the UK – cut a deal with Broadcom, to bundle the mesh and smart WiFi software with Broadcom WiFi 6 chips. It claims to already have this installed on 50 million devices.

The move is analogous to the move its arch rival, US company Plume, did in November, open sourcing its Open Virtual Switch software. If the chip has drivers to drive the AirTies apps already built in, then just like the Plume move, it enables Broadcom devices – the bulk of the home gateway market – to get into new designs faster.

Plume told us prior to Christmas, “Our plan is to enable service providers to launch new services and applications at a faster rate and at a massive scale,” and it looks to us that this move has been forced on AirTies, as a response. But the proof is in the pudding – will AirTies make just as much money from licensing its software as before? If so then this move has not harmed it in the slightest.

Both companies are jockeying for position in a world where the average home goes from 5 devices to 20 devices being attached to WiFi, as the broadband pipe feeding it jumps from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps.

The two pieces of software work slightly differently, and initially AirTies was all about making intelligent decisions in home networks about meshed WiFi Access Points. Later it has added the option to take details of each network’s behavior to the cloud so that operators can peek into in-home WiFi performance or users apps to take control of home WiFi performance.

Plume, on the back of some big North American deals, at Comcast and Bell Canada, to name but a few, has shifted the focus to the cloud for decision making about WiFi traffic, and the two continue to argue about the best approach. AirTies says automated traffic management should be in the home devices, but the cloud should be used to calculate better device policies.

But essentially the two companies are in the same business, and in our view the market is changing in that fewer and fewer device types – especially in the handset market, need active management of which APs they access, as home networks become more Multi-User and generally faster. If you can cope with iOS and Android devices plus smart TVs, then your home gateway has fewer alien operating environments to work with. Having said that it will be many years before WiFi 6 is the dominant chip in the home.

Plume’s OVS interfaces to management tools such as NetFlow, sFlow, SPAN, RSPAN, CLI, LACP and 802.1ag, rather than “legacy” control services like TR069 and the other TR services which have come out of the Broadband Forum and it hopes to become a “de facto” leader here.

Now AirTies has countered the Plume open source attack, which is to offer more targeted ease of use for individual operators, with a move to offer swifter chip integration. It would make sense for AirTies to cut similar deals as soon as it can with rival chip makers.

However, given Broadcom’s propensity to be acquisitive and the fact that it is shifting into software with its Computer Associates buy, it makes perfect sense for it to try to acquire AirTies and keep the secret software sauce of mesh WiFi to itself. If it fails to make such a bid shortly, other chip vendors will not be slow to take up similar license deals.

AirTies’ Smart WiFi software is designed to help operators upgrade in-home WiFi performance and coverage, proactively fix and monitor WiFi issues, and improve overall customer satisfaction. The software intelligently directs consumers’ devices to the best available channel and band (2.4GHz and 5GHz), based on real-time home network conditions to improve performance. It also enables gateways to serve as the WiFi Mesh controller, lowering equipment investments for operators by reducing the number of extenders required.

Broadcom’s WiFi 6 chipsets will also be integrated with access to AirTies’ Remote Manager, its cloud-based optimization suite that provides real-time visibility and historical performance analysis to manage the consumer WiFi experience.

AirTies also disclosed this summer that 51.3% of devices in the home still use 802.11n technology and to network these with WiFi 6 home gateways will be challenging and need something like the AirTies software to provide local intelligence.