Deploying and Optimizing the Next Generation Wireless Home (2017)

By Steven R. Harris, SCTE / ISBE

Delivering a seamless managed wireless and Wi-Fi experience for a residence or commercial subscriber is quickly becoming the de-facto standard when judging an MSO’s services. The MSO’s are shifting their attention to the quality of experience (QoE), proactive (e.g. PNM for Wi-Fi) wireless ecosystems and carrier grade versions of Wi-Fi for multimedia services like ultra-high definition (UHD), high definition (HD), audio and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP). The next generation wireless and Wi-Fi are being used to provide whole home coverage for cable subscribers. The wireless networks must be seamless, reliable and optimally designed to support multimedia services, faster data services (e.g., gigabit) and whole home connectivity.

When it comes to in-home wireless readiness, making sure that the customer’s data, video, voice services along with low power long-range wireless Internet of things (IoT) (e.g., 802.15.4, Sigfox, LoRa wide area network, etc.) will run smoothly long after the technician has left the premises. Operators must also leverage the latest Wi-Fi amendments of 802.11x, address spectrum concerns and solve challenges within-home wireless interoperability. In addition, the development of operational practices to not only identify the QoE throughout the home, but also characterize ways through analysis to improve the user experience when expectations are not met.

A big part of the next generation home is wireless, in particular Wi-Fi. IEEE 802.11ac second wave access points or gateway routers (GWRs) are expected to dominate the global wireless local area network (LAN) market by 2018, with more than 80%[1] units shipped.

Subscribers want a consistent wireless experience while operators are shifting to a managed carrier grade wireless experience. Carrier grade is not defined by the maximum throughput of a technology but by the minimum. Carrier grade key metric: supports up to four (4) simultaneous HD video programs, just as good as a quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) channel over a hybrid fiber coax (HFC). This requires 40 Mbps minimum at a low packet error rate (PER) of 10-6 or better, 90% coverage or better of the living space on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.[2] Multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) and wider channels (40 MHzfor 802.11n and 80 MHz for 802.11ac) allows a GWR to achieve higher rates for carrier grade metrics. Other technology that contributes to a delivery of a carrier grade experience is the network discovery and selection process; authentication and encryption methods used; and roaming features supported by aGWR. The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) developed solutions and guidelines to improve the QoE for carrier grade Wi-Fi networks.[3]

Managing the carrier grade Wi-Fi experience is equally as important in wireless communications. Cable operators will and must truly own the wireless ecosystem using managed devices (e.g., WGR) within the home. Coupling this with proactive network maintenance (PNM) for Wi-Fi (a working group within SCTE·ISBE), allows the operator to mitigate many of the problems associated with management of a wireless network. In addition, vendor incompatibles will degrade the QoE, driving the need for technologies like reference design kit for broadband (RDK-B). RDK-B is an open source software that allows MSOs to accelerate innovation in video and broadband networks.[4] The next generation subscriber will require the management of not just Wi-Fi but multiple low powered long-range wireless standards(e.g., ZigBee, Z-Wave, 802.11.15.4, Bluetooth Low Energy, LoRaWAN) requiring common access hubsor WGRs. Improved data collection is part of the service allowing the MSO to collect information via technical report (TR) 69, simple network management protocol (SNMP), Internet protocol detail records (IPDR), etc. Finally, the smartphone will be used as the central control point and gateway for these wireless devices.

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