Carrier-grade WiFi Networks

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Demand for carrier-grade WiFi 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. WiFi performance today is the primary determinant in how a residential customer perceives the QoE provided by his Communication Service Provider (CSP). As a matter of fact, WiFi is typically the biggest bottle-neck in subscriber performance - regardless if the uplink connection is wired fiber, cable or copper or LTE.

Around 30% of calls to a CSP’s help desk 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 WiFi network is intermediate interference which can be caused by other WiFi devices (e.g different WiFi network) or non-WiFi 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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WiFi technology is therefor becoming a viable integral component of CSPs broadband strategies. Thus, they will have to deploy and operate high-performance carrier-grade WiFi networks that are scalable and able to support customers’ demand and to provide a high-quality user experience. To achieve these objectives, carrier WiFi networks need to provide three basic attributes to really be branded “carrier-grade”:

  • Consistent WiFi user experience

  • A fully integrated end-to-end WiFi network and

  • WiFi network management & WiFi service support capabilities.


WiFi Optimization - What Is It All About?

Driven by the revolution of end-user devices, the move to cloud-based applications and data, WiFi has become the network of choice for connectivity. New devices have no longer wired connectivity — for them WiFi is the only option. The profile of WiFi 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 WiFi as an essential business facility. WiFi 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 WiFi networks are key to the success of CSP service offerings.

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


WiFi Spectrum Optimization - What Is It All About?

WiFi 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 WiFi. Since the 2.4GHz band where WiFi 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.

WiFi spectrums

WiFi spectrums

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

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

WiFi Capacity Optimization - What Is It All About?

WiFi 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 WiFi.

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 WiFi capacity. Traditional APs utilize omnidirectional antennas that transmit wireless signal in a 360-degree pattern—similar to a light bulb.