AT&T makes small fuss of immense AirTies win, triggering global changes

AT&T has finally been unveiled as an AirTies customer, without really announcing anything at all. AT&T published a blog post this week promoting its new Smart WiFi extender next to a photo of the AirTies-branded device, logo and all, without once crediting the Turkish WiFi expert by name. Does dumbing down such an important deal suggest something bigger to come?

Missing out on the chance to applaud the deployment in an official press release is a mere triviality for AirTies. Finally having its name associated with the mammoth US operator will not only spur on a wave of copycat WiFi announcements across the world, but could also signal the moment a larger beast pounces on AirTies for a takeover bid. Either way, AT&T’s small blog post signals a substantial victory for the future of WiFi.

AT&T itself would be a fitting suitor to buy AirTies, as would any number of tier 1 accounts in the US and Europe. Comcast would also be in the running if it weren’t for suggestions that Plume will soon become a Comcast subsidiary, although there was an apparent leak recently by Motley Fool reporting Quantenna WiFi chips are due to be deployed by Comcast, a company which has recently licensed mesh software from AirTies.

Broadcom and Qualcomm have their hands tied with their own merger conflict, so will perhaps steer clear of any near-term major purchases, while there are numerous technology vendors looking to make an impact on the smart home market, who may be willing to take a bet on WiFi. We know that Arris once pitched AT&T a Smart WiFi solution of its own, and was the incumbent in supplying home routers, so it too may take a look at AirTies.

There is a fundamental change happening in the way operators go about installing in-home WiFi. AT&T alone has more influence than the combined force of the other broadband providers in the US using AirTies technologies – Atlantic Broadband, Frontier and Midco. We believe the knowledge that AT&T has been working on rolling out a multi-AP WiFi system from AirTies may be the underlying reason why rival WiFi firms Quantenna and Broadcom have both licensed the proprietary mesh architecture of AirTies.

Multi-AP Smart WiFi has been cropping up in patches all over the world, with more agile and faster moving operators beating AT&T to the punch, but typically it takes around 4 to 5 years to get a new technology embraced at AT&T, so it was certainly one of the first to try it out. AT&T has been fighting a rearguard action in US broadband, mostly against Comcast and Charter, with the superior DOCSIS technologies built around cable. But offering superior WiFi, the last step in bringing broadband to devices, could well begin to turn the tide – a home may have 300 Mbps broadband coming in, but WiFi can cut this down to perhaps 40 Mbps in reality. The AirTies Mesh system is known to approach the theoretical maximum speeds for WiFi, something few other systems can claim.

AirTies’ mesh network technology is clearly part and parcel of the AT&T Smart WiFi deployment despite the absence of an official announcement, as AT&T cites mesh as a key ingredient in the new addition to its broadband portfolio. The Smart WiFi Extender increases coverage by 1,000 square feet and reduces network congestion with intelligent client and band steering capabilities, by selecting the fastest AP available while calculating how to swerve sticky client or bad apple problems caused by consumer devices on the network.

The Smart WiFi Extender from AirTies is available to AT&T broadband subscribers for $35, compatible with the BGW or 5268 WiFi Gateway, and includes AT&T’s Smart Home Manager app for managing passwords and devices connected to the home network.

A missing piece of the puzzle is the AirTies Remote View software, which has achieved significant savings in truck rolls in trials at more than 50 operators across North America, Europe and Asia. This amounts to being able to monitor in-home WiFi from anywhere in the world – providing a system for analyzing WiFi usage patterns and the devices connected to them and how much bandwidth is flowing through each of them. Multi-AP architectures are driving adoption of this type of omniscient interface.

Bragging rights to owning the smart WiFi market now firmly belong to AirTies, as it stands, potentially reaching an additional 15.7 million broadband customers through AT&T. However, the future of mesh technologies is uncertain as the potential for standardization looms – hoping to implement interoperability between rival WiFi systems.

Most vendors support the IEEE 802.11s standard, but this only covers link level communication within a point to point WiFi network so that different vendors’ devices can participate in a given mesh implementation. This has led to demand for higher level mesh standards and the next step is currently being plotted by several standards groups on the video side, such as CableLabs, as well as the WiFi Alliance.

AirTies has already licensed Sky in the UK, Germany and Italy with its WiFi mesh technology which even allows for powerline as an alternative backhaul, where 5 GHz WiFi signals are not clear enough. A number of undisclosed North American service providers have also invested in an AirTies R&D center in Austin, including a new test home for replicating in-home WiFi experiences.

Competition in mesh technologies has attracted at least 70 vendors to the party, including Linksys, Netgear, Mojo Networks, Cisco, Meraki, HP’s Aruba, Zebra Technologies, Meru, Ruckus, Eero and Ubiquity.

“In the modern age of the internet we use multiple smart devices in our home. And we need WiFi coverage in every corner of the house, no matter how big or small or how thick the walls. WiFi dead zones should be a thing of the past. When we’re relaxing after a long day’s work, the only thing we should worry about is whether our football team is winning the game, not whether the WiFi will stay connected,” wrote AT&T.

After CES, Faultline Online Reporter mentioned that the ball was in the AirTies court after a flurry of WiFi announcements from Las Vegas, where AirTies was notably absent. The company did not disappoint this week – setting it up for what should be a lucrative 2018.