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29 March 2018

ASSIA re-emerges into the home market with WiFi management system

ASSIA, the company founded by ADSL inventor John Cioffi, has remerged from what it describes as stealth, and entered the market for WiFi management, with its first deal to sell its cloud-based CloudCheck platform to Telus of Canada.

Cioffi and his team brought vectoring standards to market for broadband, laying the basis for, and then moved into products which cancelled out crosstalk in bundles of DSL lines, but also pushed a DSL management system which could dynamically alter broadband configurations to get the best out of broadband lines. Then it went on to offer an expert system for repairing broadband lines to shorten the workload for engineers. With AT&T as a first client, it managed to push Alcatel (now part of Nokia) in the sales of management systems on vectored DSL lines.

Using Dynamic Spectrum Management (DSA), ASSIA processed entire bundles of broadband lines as if they were one huge MIMO service for the entire bundle. It now looks as though it ran out of road to grow that market as many ADSL lines have been shut off and has been added more slowly than many expected. Hence the move to adapt some of its core competencies for WiFi.

We have to once again go back to 2012 to find ASSIA’s first forays into WiFi management with what was then called Expresse WiFi, which imported policy decisions from the cloud to fix bottlenecks in WiFi.

That market has now been pretty much ceded to Turkish company AirTies, which positions its AirTies Remote Manager as an extension to a multiple access point WiFi installation, operating as a mesh. The ASSIA system works in a very different way. At its heart is the correct apportioning of blame – if slow broadband was a WiFi problem,  ASSIA did not want it being blamed on its broadband management – and so it was a natural extension for its DSL management system.

By changing its name to CloudCheck and adding fiber support, ASSIA seems to have relaunched it and now it has a solid Tier 1 installation at Telus in Canada, which has about 1.7m broadband lines, mostly fiber.

CloudCheck plugs directly into a call center or to field technicians, rather than simply being managed by a piece of policy software, and it proactively detects and resolves subscriber WiFi issues. We assume this works in a similar way to AirTies, but around a single home gateway, moving links from one band to another (from 2.4 GHz to 5 GHz for instance), and individual channels within that spectrum, or simply cutting off devices for a second, when they are hogging resources.

ASSIA says it provides real time diagnostics, self-healing, and optimization of WiFi, and like AirTies Remote View, it allows operator staff to take a look at all the connections in real time in a house. ASSIA says that CloudCheck is now supported on over 100 different home gateway models and works with high speed DSL and GPON networks on chips from Broadcom, Qualcomm, Quantenna and Intel chips and devices from Arris, Adtran, Askey, ASUS, Arcadyan, AirTies, HITRON, Huawei, Linksys, Mitrastar, Netgear, TP-Link, Sagemcom, Technicolor and Zyxel. It relies on standard connections and instructions using the TR-069 remote management standard.

One of the problems for a management tool which supports a single WiFi device in the home is that most major operators already have a multi-AP strategy in their roadmap, where one or two extra APs work in conjunction in a mesh or extender configuration. This requires a more complex set of decisions for in-network information sharing, and allows the further dimension of fixing bad apples and sticky clients by forcing a device to connect to a different, closer AP.