US broadband innovator ASSIA has managed a massive Tier 1 telco win at Telefónica across Latin America for its CloudCheck management software – a cloud-based management tool for WiFi which reaches right down into how it is performing on remote customer premises.
We mentioned it a few weeks ago when ASSIA re-emerged after a quiet few years, with an upgrade to this software, as well as its DSL Expresse toolset for managing DSL vectoring and automated fault finding. It also mentioned that Canada’s Telus had taken on CloudCheck at that time and that it has once again reached 100 million broadband lines under contract.
We noted that this product began life in 2012 as Expresse WiFi – importing policy decisions from the cloud to fix bottlenecks in WiFi and spoke this week to David Raun, ASSIA’s COO and Kevin Mukai, Director WiFi Product Marketing about how the product worked today. “It is a layered architecture, which puts an on-board agent into the home router or in multi-AP homes into all WiFi Access Points.”
CloudCheck takes experience from a home’s WiFi performance, reports them to the cloud where it uses big data and machine learning to analyze them and then automatically tunes WiFi performance. It can use techniques like band steering, and even AP steering in multi-AP environments, but its strength is in storing channel configurations about which channel worked best at which time of day, or day of the week, and can automatically adjust its configuration when it’s not performing well enough.
It can also drive this information through a Customer Care application it calls ClearView, so that customer problems can be fixed when they complain, which field engineers can also peer into on a visit. Later it will be released in consumer apps so that individual homes can make their own adjustments to the overall performance of their WiFi.
For Telefónica, this improves the customer experience while also driving down support costs significantly. Some operators have reported that WiFi problems, where there is no fault found once an engineer visits, make up as many as 70% of all callouts.
One of the things we discussed was when an apartment building has active WiFi and some well-established usage patterns – like someone comes home from work and watches Netflix over broadband delivered over WiFi and begins to interfere with the WiFi channel you are currently using.
“Once our system finds a clear WiFi channel to move into, we take that information and store it in the cloud. When the same situation occurs, it knows immediately which channel to jump into, with a zero wait,” said Mukai.
Now this is something that we have come across and been familiar with at AirTies for the past 5 years – and recently at SoftAtHome – but there are differences. AirTies has perfected a proprietary mesh, which can only work with multi-AP installations – and very much in keeping with the way that WiFi itself works – not so much as a coordinated network but more as multiple discrete networks, it has tried to keep all the logic for handling automated WiFi improvement, inside the home. So it glimpses the condition of neighboring WiFi channels and stores that detail not in the cloud, but in the devices themselves. It goes through frequent channel shifts to less congested WiFi channels, and it offers APs with both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz and can move a poor connection (bad apple) to a neighboring AP or to a neighboring band. It also has each AP in the home report back to the router with any channel conflicts it has with neighbors.
ASSIA has come at this from its own historical approach to DSL. Its founder John Cioffi is respected as the founding father of broadband and he did much of the standards work on vectoring, the cancelling of cross talk between twisted pair wires in a bundle.
So it has come at WiFi from the same point of view – it does not only work with new multi-AP WiFi but with all types of WiFi, so when an 802.11n installation is next door, or a really old 802.11g product, then it knows which channels are best to be left alone for the 802.11AC and AX modern devices.
So this is as much about knowing what your neighbor has and managing it centrally in the cloud, as AirTies and SoftAtHome are all about building WiFi systems which look after themselves. It is more analogous to that problem of providing cross talk cancellation by knowing what all the lines are up to at once, and here it knows which of your neighbors’ WiFi is being used, and what for and in which channel and it works on every WiFi device on any chip and will manage it whether this generation of technology or a long lost one.
We said that only a few years ago operators were only specifying 25 Mbps in every part of a home and Mukai said, “Sometimes 25 Mbps is the best you can get, maybe it’s just 30% of maximum capacity – but sometimes that is good enough as long as you use it in the right way and manage it.”
“What CloudCheck does is set a threshold as a baseline of when we need to change something – and then we let our learning engine use training data to learn about where it can move that threshold to and tune it.”
“It has to recognize the stability of clients, what is happening on the edge of networks in lost air time and know when to set a trigger for automatically steering a device to a band, or AP, or to change the channel configuration. It can also attach a priority to each type of device – based on what the operator specifies.”
Telefónica has said it will use it throughout Latin America where it has something like 13 million fixed broadband lines out of the 21 million it holds globally. It already uses DSL Expresse and it will now take both CloudCheck GPON Expresse for diagnostics of GPON networks, and the ClearView customer software.