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Charter Syncs Up With Plume for Smart Home Management

Jeff Baumgartner
11/12/2019

Shedding some light on the technical underpinnings of a new whole-home WiFi product, Charter announced that it had adopted OpenSync, an open source framework that originated with WiFi software and cloud management company Plume.

Charter said it is using OpenSync to power a new Advanced In-Home WiFi service the MSO initially has launched in Austin, Texas. Charter expects to introduce the offering in more markets this year ahead of a broad rollout planned for 2020.

Charter said it is porting OpenSync to its latest WiFi router products, with plans to enhance the baseline software for a range of third-party apps and services. For the initial launch in Austin, Charter is enabling customers to manage the home WiFi's 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands and to pause Internet access to any single device on the wireless network via its My Spectrum App. The MSO said it expects to tack on more features, such as parental and guest controls and enhanced in-home network security capabilities, in the "coming months."

OpenSync is a cloud-based, open source framework that enables cable operators, other ISPs and vendors to manage multiple devices on the home network, including individual WiFi access points from multiple suppliers, on a common software platform. Work on OpenSync originated with Plume in 2015 and was initially called the Plume Middle Layer (PML). Last Fall, PML/OpenSync was later provided as an open source platform to RDK Management, a software initiative for set-tops and broadband gateways managed by Comcast, Liberty Global and Charter Communications.

OpenSync is also compatible with OpenWRT, a generic platform that is supported on millions of retail routers; OpenWRT is also gaining some traction with service providers. Comcast, Liberty Global, Sagemcom, Sercomm and Samsung Electronics were among the companies to jump aboard the OpenSync initiative early on.

"Approximately 300 million devices are connected to our vast network, and we take seriously our responsibility to deliver fast, reliable service, while protecting and securing our customers' online private information," Rich DiGeronimo, Charter's chief product and technology officer, said in a release.

Why this matters
The adoption of OpenSync reveals a key component of Charter's grander plans to enable customers to manage their home WiFi networks and an expected wider range of smart home services and applications. It also provides a bit more detail about Charter's plan to enhance the value of its core broadband service by taking a more prominent role on the home network, similar in some ways to how Comcast is approaching this with "xFi," a platform that uses RDK-B.

The selection of OpenSync also comes a few months after Charter conducted employee tests for what it called the Spectrum Connectivity Platform. According to industry sources, Charter had initially approved access points from Sagemcom, CommScope/Arris and Askey for its initial batch of employee trials.

Sources also said that Charter-based the employee trial on Prpl, an open source software effort with links to OpenWrt that is tailored for service providers.

Charter's selection is also a sizable win for OpenSync, which now claims to be connecting more than 450 million devices across about 1,000 device brands. Charter ended the third quarter with 24.59 million residential broadband subs.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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