By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
ARRIS has quietly ushered in a new era in home Wi-Fi networking with the introduction of the world’s first Wi-Fi Alliance EasyMesh™-certified wireless extender. The idea of EasyMesh™ is to ensure interoperability between Wi-Fi access points – aka mesh Wi-Fi units and home gateways – from multiple vendors. In the end this will mean more choice, simpler setup, and generally much better whole-home Wi-Fi for consumers, says Charles Cheevers, CTO of Customer Premises Equipment at ARRIS.
Multi-AP or ‘mesh’ home Wi-Fi systems are selling by the tens of millions but thus far none of the popular mesh APs from Google, Eero, Plume, and many others are capable of communicating with units from other vendors to form a single, unified home Wi-Fi network. This is now due to change in short order with the first EasyMesh™-certified product release by ARRIS last week.
Getting ready for multi-vendor, multi-AP Wi-Fi for the home
ARRIS’ new unit is called the VAP4641 Wireless Extender and it forms an integral part of ARRIS’ HomeAssure™ family of Wi-Fi products. But the unit will also pair and form a unified Wi-Fi network together with other EasyMesh™-capable APs from other vendors as these become available.
The scheme will simplify consumer choice but also offers powerful new tools for ISPs to manage their subscribers’ home Wi-Fi services, says Charles Cheevers. “EasyMesh helps service providers monitor and control the entire chain of IP units over Wi-Fi to ensure full home Wi-Fi transparency, to resolve issues, and provide a Wi-Fi service which is as good as a wired service,” Cheevers says.
A new era in home Wi-Fi network management
ISP-managed home Wi-Fi networks that include multiple APs has already been identified as a multi-billion dollar opportunity but the race to deliver managed whole-home Wi-Fi to consumers has only just begun. And EasyMesh™ technology has a critical role to play, says Charles Cheevers.
EasyMesh™ technology is needed to establish a MAP protocol layer for the in-home Wi-Fi system and this in turn allows for the creation of a sophisticated controller as the top software layer. That is where the intelligence and hence much of the solution value resides, explains Charles Cheevers.
“In the case of ARRIS HomeAssure, the Wi-Fi Controller sits on top of the EasyMesh protocol. The EasyMesh MAP creates the network topology and sees everything, but it is the Wi-Fi controller algorithm above that adds all of the critical intelligence, including client steering, band steering, changing channels, and more,” says Cheevers.
Cheevers: Smartphones should obey messages from EasyMesh™ networks
Cheevers also says that EasyMesh™ technology signals a fundamental shift in how home Wi-Fi should be managed in relation to smartphones and other clients.
“Companies like Google and in particular Apple believe their smartphone should do all it can do to make the connection experience as good as possible for the consumer. Now with EasyMesh in the home, the EasyMesh controller will know more about the overall Wi-Fi topology than the Apple phone. Ideally that also means, Apple phones should obey messages sent from EasyMesh networks,” Cheevers says.