Cable Wi-Fi

Frontier Calls In WiFi Fix With AirTies Mesh

Frontier has nearly doubled its Internet customer base since acquiring three Verizon markets on April 1, and the telco is now faced with finding ways both to capitalize on that scale and differentiate itself from rival service providers.

It hasn't been smooth sailing so far. A troubled transition in the regions where Frontier Communications Corp. (NYSE: FTR) took over from Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) in the spring didn't do the company any favors. Frontier will deliver its first earnings report since that acquisition on August 1, and at that time the market will learn what kind of impact the transition may have had on the business. The telco should be able to report north of 4.5 million Internet subscribers if the numbers from the previous quarter hold. (See Frontier Takes Over FiOS Tomorrow.)

Regardless of whether Frontier has worked out the transition kinks, however, the company is now hoping to drive growth through a combination of infrastructure upgrades and new service introductions. It's investing in upgrades to some of its existing copper plant and launching new IPTV services in several markets. (See Video: Frontier's Final Frontier .)

Today, Frontier is also announcing the launch of a new in-home mesh WiFi solution powered by vendor AirTies .

The WiFi offering is part of the telco's "Frontier Secure" suite of services and combines either one or two wireless access points with AirTies software that dynamically and automatically steers devices to the best WiFi connection available.

The mesh WiFi solution, which AirTies claims can increase WiFi speeds by a factor of ten, has been adopted by numerous service providers in Europe and Asia. However, the Turkish company only made its debut in the US through a deal with Midcontinent Communications (Midco) announced last November. (See Battle for the Home Network? It's On.)

"We've looked at a lot of the other [mesh WiFi solutions] out there. In our KPI [key performance indicators] criteria, AirTies came out on top in all of the key categories that mattered to us," says Frontier Senior Vice President Kelly Morgan. "Some of the things that we looked at: autoband steering, autochannel steering, really thinking about how to auto-mitigate congestion in the home. It's not good enough to just think about moving between 2.4 and 5, but how do you also think about better performance across channels, and then how do you do that broadly within the home and do that with a consistent performance."

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The adoption of WiFi optimization technology puts Frontier ahead of many of its competitors in the broadband business, and it may help win the telco new customer fans. Many wireless routers now come with some diagnostic and WiFi management capabilities, but few consumers in the US have access to WiFi service that automatically leverages network capacity in a way that delivers the highest wireless performance possible.

WiFi optimization is growing progressively more important for two reasons. First, as broadband speeds to the home increase, the in-home WiFi network is becoming more of a bottleneck for Internet traffic. And second, poor WiFi performance is one of the top complaints from broadband customers to their service providers. By improving performance, service providers have the potential to decrease their costs related to WiFi troubleshooting.

At a consumer level, there are some retail brands now pushing high-performance WiFi, including Eero , Luma Inc. and Alphabet Inc. with its OnHub WiFi router. It is widely expected that more service providers will follow suit in the coming months.

For now, Frontier is gaining a head start on next-generation in-home WiFi. It's selling the WiFi mesh solution for a one-time fee of either $72 or $144, depending on whether customers buy one extender device or two. Field tech will set the solution up, or Frontier offers a self-installation option.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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