XcellAir brings advanced WiFi to play in the NWaaS model

Client steering and mesh networking are technologies which can enhance in-home WiFi, which is otherwise choked by multiple video streams. One company moving into this space is XcellAir, a two-year old outfit spun out of InterDigital, which was talking up its cloud-based software at Cable Congress in Brussels last week, where it took part in CableLabs’ innovation showcase.

XcellAir’s mesh networking technology combines different types of spectrum and technology to create an optimal capacity:cost ratio and support managed services. It can bring together WiFi, LTE in 5 GHz and small cells, in unlicensed, licensed or shared bands.

XcellAir’s EVP of sales and marketing, Todd Mersch, explained that this type of technology is developing quickly to offer a network-as-a-service platform, uniting different networking standards. But Mersch he knows that this concept remains anathema to some operators, which have vested interests in tightly controlled networks and in certain standards and spectrum bands. These concerns need to be set aside to kickstart a more open, cost-effective market for mobile services.

The company currently has eight trials, including one with a Tier 1 US operator, and its first official customer is set to be announced in the coming weeks. Last year, it published research claiming that US MSOs could generate $675m in additional services revenue, while saving $3.8bn in costs, by moving more traffic to controlled, high quality WiFi networks.

Mersch explained that XcellAir fills a gap for an open, interoperable platform which allows different gateways and access points to work together even when they support advanced technology like traffic steering. Capabilities like band steering are available in Qualcomm’s and Broadcom’s chips, for instance, but the different algorithms will not work together.

This means XcellAir can support multivendor platforms on an as-a-service basis. It claims a threefold reduction in latency for voice over WiFi, as well as 50% fall in the volume of customer care calls and 33% less truck rolls, by combining different technologies and implementing technologies like steering and mesh.

Mersch spoke about the difficulties of getting this type of technology through the door at operators, and the risk of them running trials of the software but then building their own version. This is a risk any vendor takes, but XcellAir has five patents inherited from InterDigital, and two more pending, which he hopes makes that less likely.

The firm recently joined forces with gateway provider Benu Networks to target the enterprise WiFi space, integrating the XCellRAN cloud-based carrier WiFi platform with Benu’s Virtual Service Edge (VSE). The combination enables operators to deliver managed business services going beyond WiFi connectivity and into optimization, security and quality of service.

XCellAir argues that these capabilities could help operators to enhance the value of their relationship with business customers, rather than losing these managed service opportunities to over-the-top providers, while also reducing operators’ cost of delivery, making it feasible to support small businesses.