By Thomas Flanagan
Israeli WiFi chip vendor Celeno Communications landed another European deal this week, securing Belgian operator Telenet to add the OptimizAIR software to its new WiFi marketing service Flow – which Celeno told us at IBC is all about managing air time to allocated devices.
However, the main topic of conversation in Amsterdam this year was not Celeno’s new account win, but how it is facing up to fierce rival AirTies – discussing the key differences between their competing product lines in a multi-AP marketplace, representing a multi-billion dollar opportunity.
AirTies has pioneered a method of mesh networking, using secret behind the scenes techniques to stem the bad apple and sticky client problems that consumer devices can cause in a network, but Celeno’s CEO, Gilad Rozen, denounced the mesh architecture as having distinct disadvantages. Rozen compared the mesh topology to cellular networks, comprising of a backbone and towers, in which every element in the network acts as a relay point and therefore the behavior of the network is statistical rather than deterministic. His claim is that Celeno has a built a “super set of mesh networks.”
What we believe Rozen is describing is that in a multi-AP environment, the delivery from gateway to device might be unevenly distributed between APs and therefore a connection would be diluted down, rather than a set path being predetermined by the software and the capacity already being calculated. A mesh architecture combined with client steering techniques is ideal for a home with around four APs, but this suggests that in a home with seven or eight APs, the system might struggle to maintain its top end bandwidth potential. We’re not radio engineers, but that’s our best take.
Rozen also translated the company’s marketing language for us, explaining that the smart cluster connectivity and sprinkler architecture terms used in its press releases are in fact the same thing. As we suspected, the terms both relate to multi-AP systems and are essentially ways of describing how the software can intelligently steer between multiple APs.
Celeno’s WiFi chipsets and software have been shipped in millions of units across Europe in Liberty Global’s various points of presence – with deployments in the operator’s G.hn extender, Horizon video gateway, Mercury gateway and Micro-zapper. Celeno added some 1.3 million Belgian households to its growing deployment base last week, with its OptimizAIR 2.0 software being rolled out on both Telenet’s existing installed devices in the field and its upcoming next-generation gateway. Telenet’s second quarter results actually show 1.67 million broadband subscribers, but Rozen suggested there could be some differences between residential and business subscribers.
Telenet, which is majority owned by Liberty Global, has recruited Celeno to help build its new Flow network management service. The clever component in Flow is a QoS protocol which is defined by the device sending it, meaning an operator can decide which quality to send a video in, instead of a device dictating the quality, and ending up with a situation in which ten individual devices are all requesting the highest possible quality and throttling the network to a standstill.
Liberty’s Horizon service and gateway is not fully deployed with Telenet in Belgium, but its Yelo Play multiscreen service is based on the Horizon UI and works with many set tops already in the field – enabling more than half of its subscribers to download the new TV menu on their existing decoder.
Telenet’s Digibox cable set tops are supplied by ADB, and the Arris Touchstone TG2492 Gateway has also rolled out to Telenet customers, enabling broadband download speeds of up to 1 Gbps across Liberty Global’s existing EuroDOCSIS 3.0 platform. The new WiFi and telephony gateway is now available in all Liberty Global markets having first been introduced into Belgium and Romania. Also involved at Telenet is US cable edge technology firm Casa Systems, which has deployed its CCAP using DOCSIS 3.1 at Telenet, migrating customers off existing CMTS platforms, adding video services and enhanced internet speeds.
Liberty Global is known for aligning all its businesses to support a common roadmap for products, technology services and platforms across Europe – so this might just be the start of something much bigger for Flow and Celeno.
As for Celeno’s long-awaited tier 1 account in the US, Rozen teased that we might see an announcement sometime early next year. The largest remaining contract not accounted for is Verizon, which would explain the excitement among the Celeno execs, but it could just as easily be at Frontier or Altice – either of which would be a huge deal.
Telenet’s Director of Product Management, Stijn Eulaerts, said, “Our first concern was to find a partner that had the right technology in-house to enable us to boost the experience of our 1.3 million households without swapping their existing hardware, and the second was how can we do that while future-proofing our new products. Celeno’s technology delivers on both accounts. With this technology, we give customers a powerful and highly intelligent WiFi system that enables a superior WiFi experience, even with the growing number of concurrently connected devices using bandwidth hungry applications.”