CES 2017: WiFi offerings jostle for operator and consumer attention


The recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was awash with WiFi players bustling for attention. Turkish WiFi mesh specialist AirTies boasted new operator trials, Comcast an-nounced the deployment of new WiFi software, Linksys unveiled a tri-band router package, and Chinese manufacturer TP-Link entered the market with a double product launch.

This year will be one of significant growth for carrier-controlled WiFi, as more and more operators begin to adopt the array of systems now available, particularly the various mesh networking technologies that have emerged in the past couple of years; and as consumer awareness is heightened still further by a new generation of retail offerings, such as Google’s recently launched WiFi Home Gateway.

Wireless Watch’s sister service, Faultline Online Reporter, met with AirTies for a catch-up at CES. It has undergone a transformation over the past year, stopping its retail operations to focus on its operator customer base. AirTies boasts more than 50 active trials, with a mix of operators across Europe and the US, which are testing its powerline-backhauled mesh technology, as the company hopes to bulk up a customer base that most recently added another major name in Frontier Communications.

AirTies said Frontier’s legacy gateways were simply too old to support the mesh networking technologies, which is why the US telco bundled it into the Frontier Secure broadband offering, rather than opting for the full mesh capabilities.

Operators such as Frontier are reselling a $144 double mesh system from AirTies which works on multiple layers of WiFi, most suited for better streaming of HD video and gam-ing in a 2,000 square-foot home (1,000 square foot per AP).

Mesh retail offerings such as Google WiFi, on the other hand, are essentially ‘me too’ products, but Google’s system sets a bar for how WiFi will be increasingly controlled by the smartphone – a precedent for the smart home market within the IoT ecosystem.

Comcast made a pledge last week, stating that software allowing both the consumer and help desk to control how WiFi is operating in the home, will roll out to 15m Xfinity users by the end of 2017.

TP-Link unveiled two Deco M5 Routers in Las Vegas, one with Powerline and one with-out. The Deco M5 Router with Powerline uses the home’s existing electrical wiring, but the Chinese firm has not revealed which standard this is using – whether it is HomePlug Alliance or its rival HomeGrid Forum (backers of G.hn).

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Caroline has been analyzing and reporting in the hi-tech industries since 1986 and has a huge wealth of experience of technology trends and how they impact on business models. She started her career as a journalist, specializing in enterprise and carrier networks and in silicon technologies. She spent much of her journalistic career at VNU Business Publishing, then Europe’s largest producer of technology publications and information services . She was publishing director for the launch of VNU’s pan-European online content services, and then European editorial director. She then made the move from publishing into technology market analysis and consulting, and in 2002 co-founded Rethink Technology Research with Peter White. Rethink specializes in trends and business models for wireless, converged and quad play operators round the world and the technologies that support them. Caroline’s role is to head up the wireless side of the business, leading the creation of research, newsletters and consulting services focused on mobile platforms and operator models. In this role, she has become a highly recognized authority on 4G systems such as LTE and WiMAX, and a prolific speaker at industry events. Consulting and research clients come from major mobile operators, the wireless supply chain and financial institutions.


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