For many of us, home WiFi systems continue to be a pain almost as often as they are a pleasure. For the operators however, they may just turn out to be an untapped window of opportunity.
Whole-home, mesh WiFi solutions look to address the familiar pain points with ordinary home systems -- blackspots that the signal from the router cannot reach, and plug-in signal extenders that can't pick up the base signal or have different network names and require different passwords.
Mesh-based WiFi creates a network that covers all of the home using multiple, discreet, WiFi extenders to deliver a fully integrated network that includes in-home roaming with built-in signal management to deliver the best possible service even into the blackest of blackspots such as a basement.
But according to whole-home WiFi specialists Plume, the provision of that mesh network should just be the start of the opportunity for the service provider community. What's more, it's an opportunity that can address the revenue gaps created by changing service patterns and aggressive competition.
"Operators face two challenges that represent massive business risk," says CEO and co-founder Fahri Diner. "Firstly, there is little to no revenue growth in some of their traditional network services -- landline voice revenues are declining and video is increasingly coming over the top. Meanwhile, customers demand even bigger and faster data bundles but the revenues don't increase in line with the speed of service.
"Secondly, they are in great danger of marginalization. If the initial wave of OTT players were not challenge enough, the march of the web-scale giants into the home represents a flood that seriously threatens their business model."
Diner warns that devices such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa give these Internet giants an even bigger foot in the domestic door that makes them -- not the operator -- the gateway to the outside world. And that's a risky position for a service provider community that has always owned the connectivity gateway.
"Consumer requirements are changing," Diner adds. "In the recent past it was all about connectivity; then it became all about performance. Today, it is all about personalisation -- what devices you want to connect, what services you want to access, and what content you want to consume. Smart speakers offer that personal touch."
Diner believes that the battleground for the hearts, minds and revenues of the home consumer sits right between the ISP's connectivity and the smart speakers of the web-scale giants. And that's where a smart, whole-home, managed WiFi solution with visibility into the devices connected to it can make a real difference and become the ISP's trump card.
That's the driving force behind OpenSync, a new open-source software initiative announced by Diner this week at the Broadband World Forum (BBWF) in partnership with Samsung, the world's largest mobile and consumer electronics company.
Plume has chosen to make its previously proprietary device middle layer software available as open source software. The middle layer in the Plume solution is the part that makes the 'smarts' possible; it communicates with all the devices in the home and with the Plume Cloud where data analytics, insights, and control messages are created to help improve services and drive personalization.
Plume's intelligent solution has already proven itself inside cloud-supported whole-home WiFi solutions from Liberty Global, the world's biggest international TV and broadband company; and from the largest broadband and communications companies in the USA and Canada, Comcast and Bell. The Plume middle layer also sits within Samsung's SmartThings WiFi -- an integrated mesh WiFi router and smart home hub.
At the BBWF, Plume is showcasing a mesh WiFi ecosystem running across the OpenSync platform in an unprecedented demonstration of multi-industry, multi-vendor, multi-service and multi-silicon open source collaboration.
"For the service providers to defend their turf," says Diner, "they have to own the in-house experiences and they have to have access to the big data analytics that can drive new services and revenues. They also have to be seen as the provider that knits all the services together.
"By making our middle layer available as open source software, we are looking to accelerate the curation and delivery of new services and to help the service provider community work with device manufacturers of every size and type," Diner explains.
"We have proven in the market, and demonstrated at BBWF, that OpenSync enables any device on the home network to communicate with the hub and with the cloud -- whether that is the Plume cloud or any other private cloud. Now we are making it easier for developers to access market-proven, reliable, open source software to drive the release of new products and new services that are enabled and driven by ISP-provided technologies."
Diner's picture of the future is a big one. He tracks the growth of the consumer market from millions of homes, to billions of people and now trillions of devices and believes only unlicensed, but managed WiFi spectrum can deliver the services and bandwidth needed.
"The biggest market opportunity is in the home," he reasons. "That's why it is the target of the smart speaker invasion and it's a market that the operators need to protect and grow. By making our middle layer available as open source software, we think we can dramatically change the market dynamic -- and make it easier for developers and operators to work together to grow the overall market.
"And of course, we think this will be good for our business too," he adds. "After all, a rising tide lifts all boats, and we think our boat has already passed its sea trials. So right now, we're ready for others to climb on board and accelerate with us."
See OpenSync in action at BBWF, booth #MR15, hall 21b.
This is a contributed article by Plume.