CableLabs Project Eyes Whole-Home WiFi

Working to standardize communication protocols between coordinated home WiFi access points
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As whole-home WiFi systems become an increasing important part of cable operator strategies, CableLabs has initiated a project that aims to standardize the communication protocols for multiple, coordinated home WiFi access points.

While that work won’t be part of DOCSIS, it does aim to span across variety of WiFi-enhancing tools and technologies, including mesh-based networks, WiFi repeaters and WiFi extenders.

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The general focus of the work is to bring the capability of an enterprise-grade multi access point architecture to the home without the need for a wireless LAN controller, explained John Bahr, lead architect, wireless technologies at CableLabs.

He said CableLabs will be working with vendors and standards bodies to come up with a standard communication structure that handles the exchange of information between WiFi access points to ensure that the client devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) can decide the best path.

“The clients have no idea which access point they should associate with … to get the best throughput, the best latency and the lowest jitter,” he said.

More specifically, that work will focus on areas such as the steering of clients between access points, steering clients between different bands supported by those APs, auto-configuration, and radio resource management.

“The goal of the protocol is to come up with something that could be adopted by the industry because there’s a vacuum right now for something like this,” Bahr said.

Meanwhile, several vendors, including Arris, AirTies, eero, Google, are already tackling these issues at retail and, to a lesser degree, in partnership with cable operators and other ISPs. 

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Though the scope of the proposed standard is still in the works, Bahr stressed that the aim of the project is not to take away from a vendor’s value proposition. He likened it to the 802.11 standards in that vendors are still able to innovate on top of them.

It’s also too early to say when CableLabs intends to complete that work, though Bahr is hopeful that 2017 will provide a “first step in this direction.”  He also said CableLabs might also look for ways to weave open source options into a standard. 

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