Cable Wi-Fi

AirTies Hikes Hardware-Agnostic Path as Whole-Home WiFi Takes Off

Emphasizing a hardware-agnostic approach as service provider demand for whole-home WiFi increases, AirTies says it has developed a version of its managed WiFi mesh software platform for gateways, modems and extenders that are equipped with RDK-B.

RDK-B is the broadband-flavored version of the Reference Design Kit (RDK), an open source software stack for IP-connected devices. RDK-V is focused on video-capable set-tops. The effort is run by RDK Management LLC , a joint venture of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) and Charter Communications Inc. (See RDK-B Could Revolutionize Home Network.)

AirTies said the RDK-B-optimized version of its cloud-managed WiFi software, which aims to optimize connectivity based on congestion levels and other analytical data culled from the in-home wireless network, will be ready for primetime in Q1 2019.

AirTies also claims that an unnamed tier-1 operator (it also won't say if that service provider is based in or outside the US) has already signed on to deploy the software on RDK-based consumer premises equipment. (See Why ISPs Are High on Whole-Home WiFi.)

AirTies likewise is mum on the vendors that will integrate that software, but RDK's list of licensees is a who's who of cable modem and gateway suppliers from Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) on down.

AirTies said its software would be deployed on top of the RDK software layer, adding that it's also made to be portable across chipsets and CPE suppliers as a firmware update.

"Since the RDK is an open source software platform for the connected home, improving the home WiFi experience through new applications and analytics is of paramount importance," RDK Management president and GM Steve Heeb, said in a statement.

Several MSOs have already deployed some version of RDK or have plans underway. Comcast has been using both the video and broadband versions, but has been working closely with Plume Design Inc. on its whole-home WiFi software system. Other possible candidates from the RDK fold include Cox Communications Inc. , NOS (Portugal), Jupiter Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (J:COM) (Japan), The Quickline Group (Switzerland), Vodafone, Tele Columbus AG (Germany) and three Canadian operators -- Shaw Communications Inc. , Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI) and Videotron Ltd.

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Support for RDK-B and the hardware-agnostic approach could open some new doors for AirTies, which has whole-home WiFi relationships (usually via a mix of software and hardware) with service providers such as Sky , AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Atlantic Broadband , Frontier Communications Corp. (NYSE: FTR), Orange (NYSE: FTE), Midcontinent Communications (Midco) , Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY).

The software angle, AirTies claims, will also provide a way for an ISP to upgrade gateways to improve in-home steering of connectivity to laptops, tablets, gaming consoles and other devices on the best available channel and band, even if a mesh extender is not in use. The software will also enable a gateway to act as a mesh WiFi access point, potentially reducing the number of extenders that a home might require, the company said.

AirTies is also making the move as competition heats up in the service provider whole-home WiFi sector, an area also being focused on by Comcast-backed Plume, Eero and Netgear Inc. (Nasdaq: NTGR), along with a vibrant retail market that companies such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Linksys and eero are focused on.

AirTies said it would be demonstrating its latest wares at next week's Cable-Tec Expo in Atlanta, and at Broadband World Forum in Berlin.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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