Carrier-grade Wi-Fi Networks

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Demand for carrier-grade Wi-Fi offerings is growing at a fast rate - due to the increasing adoption of IoT and 5G applications along with the rising advent of smart everything. Wi-Fi performance today is the primary determinant in how a residential customer perceives the QoE provided by his CSP. As a matter of fact, Wi-Fi is typically the weakest link in subscriber performance - regardless if the uplink connection is wired fiber, cable or copper or LTE.

Around 30% of calls to a Communication Service Provider's (CSP) helpdesk today are related to poor in-home connectivity. While CSP's have been bringing gigabit broadband connections to the home, they typically don't control the in-house coverage situation. One of the main challenges of the in-home Wi-Fi network is intermediate interference which can be caused by other Wi-Fi devices (e.g different Wi-Fi network) or non-Wi-Fi devices (e.g. microwaves, baby monitors, LTE, DECT equipment). This interference is even more problematic in an apartment building with a large number of neighbours.

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Wi-Fi technology is therefor becoming a viable integral component of CSPs broadband strategies. Thus, they will have to deploy and operate high-performance carrier-grade Wi-Fi networks that are scalable and able to support customers’ demand and to provide a high-quality user experience. To achieve these objectives, carrier Wi-Fi networks need to provide three basic attributes to really be branded “carrier-grade”:

  • Consistent Wi-Fi user experience

  • A fully integrated end-to-end Wi-Fi network and

  • Wi-Fi network management & Wi-Fi service support capabilities.


WiFi Optimization - What Is It All About?

Driven by the revolution of enduser devices, the move to cloud-based applications and data, Wi-Fi has become the network of choice for connectivity. New devices have no longer wired connectivity — for them Wi-Fi is the only option. The profile of Wi-Fi usage in the digital home has dramatically changed in recent years - from an overlay access network supporting a relatively small number of applications running primarily on laptops, to a mission-critical network supporting a plethora of data - video and voice services - accessed from many different devices.

CSPs now count Wi-Fi as an essential business facility. Wi-Fi is an integral strategic component of carrier networks and is gaining even more momentum in future 5G networks. High-quality user experience and high-performance Wi-Fi networks are key to the success of CSP service offerings.

WiFi Optimization can be achieved by optimizing the Wi-Fi user access layer, the application layer, the Wi-Fi hardware layer, the Wi-Fi spectrum and the Wi-Fi capacity. While application and device layers are less in the span-of-control of CSPs, CSPs can manage the usage of Wi-Fi spectrum and Wi-Fi capacity.

 
City of Prague: Residential area with several block of flats. In total 31 x 2.4 GHz and 49 x 5 GHz APs per one location

City of Prague: Residential area with several block of flats. In total 31 x 2.4 GHz and 49 x 5 GHz APs per one location


Wi-Fi Spectrum Optimization - What Is It All About?

Wi-Fi spectrum is a limited resource. The ability to maximize its usage is critical to being able to deploy the appropriate amount of network capacity for a given deployment, in particular on where there is dense usage. The traditional approach - to handling increased bandwidth demand for more users and traffic in a dense environment - is to add more Access Points. This will work only to a certain extent, but will quickly run into the spectrum limitation of Wi-Fi. Since the 2.4GHz band where Wi-Fi operates only supports three non-overlapping channels, only three APs can be effectively placed in a given area. Add a fourth AP and you must replicate the same channel, causing interference and reducing the effective throughput on that channel.

Wi-Fi spectrums

Wi-Fi spectrums

The 5GHz band supports significantly more spectrum—up to 24 depending on country.

In public areas, Wi-Fi devices—especially smartphones—are be present in large numbers but not connected to the local Wi-Fi network. These unassociated devices can consume a significant amount of Wi-Fi spectrum since they probe the air for Wi-Fi networks to connect to. Probe messages and AP responses occur at the lowest Wi-Fi rate, consuming significant air time.

Wi-Fi Capacity Optimization - What Is It All About?

Wi-Fi is a shared medium—you can only place limited number of users on a given radio before performance begins to suffer. Handling a high density of wireless users and/or a high traffic capacity therefore comes down to providing more wireless radios for communication. Leveraging the available spectrum to the greatest extent possible requires up to 27 radios - the total number of channels available with Wi-Fi.

AX.WiFi Optimization Dashboard

Traditional APs operate with just two radios - one each fixed in 2.4GHz and 5GHz. This means up to 24 APs would be required in a given area to fully utilize the spectrum and provide maximum Wi-Fi capacity. Traditional APs utilize omnidirectional antennas that transmit wireless signal in a 360-degree pattern—similar to a light bulb.