Just before the holiday break, Turkish WiFi vendor AirTies cut a deal with Broadcom, to bundle its mesh and smart WiFi software with Broadcom WiFi 6 chips. It claims to already have this software installed on 50m devices.
The move is similar to one made by its arch-rival, US company Plume, in November, when the firm open sourced its Open Virtual Switch software. If the Broadcom chips already have drivers for the AirTies apps built in, then just like the Plume move, this would enable Broadcom devices – the bulk of the home gateway market – to get into new designs faster.
Plume told us: “Our plan is to enable service providers to launch new services and applications at a faster rate and at a massive scale,” and it may be that AirTies has been forced to make a response.
Both companies are jockeying for position in a world where the average home will go from five devices to 20 devices being attached to WiFi, as the broadband pipe feeding it jumps from 100Mbps to 1Gbps.
Their approach to software is somewhat different. Initially AirTies was all about making intelligent decisions in home networks based on meshed WiFi access points. More recently, it 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 can take control of home WiFi performance.
This brought it closer to Plume which, on the back of some big North American deals, such as those with Comcast and Bell Canada, has shifted the focus to the cloud for decision-making about WiFi traffic. However, 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 because fewer and fewer device types – especially in the handset market – need active management of which APs they access, as home networks become more multiuser and generally faster. If a system can cope with iOS and Android devices plus smart TVs, then the home gateway has fewer alien operating environments to work with.
AirTies is countering the Plume open source gambit, 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 other chipmakers.
However, given Broadcom’s propensity to be acquisitive, and the fact that it is shifting into software with its Computer Associates buy, it might also make 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 licensing 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 (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), 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.