The Broadband Forum is focused on developing carrier-grade WiFi, while it sees ongoing projects in connected home, broadband abstraction and WiFi management begin to bear fruit this year.
"WiFi has always been very effective from a consumer point of view. We have developed the first generation of a test plan of what makes a WiFi network carrier class. Now we're working on the next release of that, a test plan," said Robin Mersh, Broadband Forum CEO, in a call with Broadband World News. "It will build in mesh capabilities and try to get to a much more robust way of building, then deploying WiFi networks. WiFi technology problems get in the way of all those monetizing ideas [carriers] have. If you haven't got a reliable WiFi network it can kill you."
Carrier-grade WiFi is a newer conundrum the Forum is taking on, but several initiatives it's tackled over the past year or two are coming to fruition this year as well, he said.
"Things are becoming a little more real," Mersh said this week. "There are a few subjects we've been working on where there's been a good deal of preparatory work, where you're starting to see things be deployed, or there are things where you're starting to see actual plans, where real technical work is going to happen."
For example, Broadband Forum is making progress on USP Agent, an open source code base designed to help vendors integrate their IoT devices into reference implementations with the Forum's User Services Platform (USP). That standard has already entered its second release, Mersh said. This means it's closer to enabling large-scale operator deployments and new revenue streams, while eliminating the risks associated with proprietary IoT rollouts.
"We’re seeing just a tremendous amount of interest in that area, a real uptick in operator interest in that subject," Mersh said.
In fact, operators are growing more interested in connected homes, he said. Some vendors are working with Broadband Forum's USP, Mersh said, with more expected to announce news shortly.
"We have already started to have some deployment. I don't think there's news yet but we do know vendors are already shipping," he said. "A couple of vendors have already been associated with some deployment; we're not allowed to say who, but I'm sure sooner or later it'll come out."
Certification is a logical next step, although it's premature to share details of the non-existent program, Mersh said.
"We did USP with a view to certification. It' a bit different to the other certifications we've seen," he said. "It will be very easy to scale, very cost-effective."
Certification may include WiFi, given the critical role wireless takes in smart homes. As part of WiFi standardization, Broadband Forum expects its relationship to deepen with prpl foundation, an open source non-profit enabling IoT device security and interoperability. The two organizations collaborated last year. But the Forum, as an operator organization, wants to ensure carriers are represented in WiFi standards, protocols and discussions, Mersh said.
"So far we have been developing requirements for WiFi management that [prpl has] been taking into their open source platform. They've been busy working with their open source efforts. Our work so far has been on the requirements piece," said Mersh. "We have been working on some integration with USP. What gets layered on top of that is WiFi performance which is something we've been interested in a while."
In addition, Broadband Forum sees more operators involved in broadband access abstraction, said Mersh. This interest will generate more deployments plus more vendor involvement, he predicted, in areas including cloud central office.
"The Quality of Experience project is progressing too. It's going into trials, and a lot of that will be this year," he noted.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News