Wi-Fi Alliance introduces certification program for new home designs

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Wi-Fi Home Design provides home builders with an industry-approved network installation plan based on Wi-Fi deployment guidelines.

The Wi-Fi Alliance is introducing a new program that makes Wi-Fi as essential to the blueprints of a new home as electricity and plumbing.

Wi-Fi Certified Home Design brings enterprise design practices for planning and installing Wi-Fi networks to the new home construction industry, with the aim of having whole-home coverage and an exceptional Wi-Fi user experience starting the day the new home owner moves in. Already, homebuilding firm Lennar announced the first Wi-Fi Certified home designs featuring integrated home automation and voice control with Amazon Alexa.

It’s not just about solidifying Wi-Fi as the IoT technology in the home. Wi-Fi is the de facto technology in the home today, said Kevin Robinson, vice president of marketing for Wi-Fi Alliance.

“Rather than being an afterthought of home design, connectivity is going to be built into the home from the ground up,” much like lighting fixtures or electricity is incorporated into the home to fit into the home owner’s lifestyle, he said. 

What Wi-Fi Certified Home Design does is elevate the home owner’s experience in the home by ensuring that Wi-Fi networks meet very specific connectivity, coverage and performance standards. For the home owner, “they’re going to get a home where when they walk in, not only is the network professionally designed and installed, but that equipment is there and it’s a very seamless, turnkey experience for the end user,” Robinson said.

The program provides guidelines for home builders for optimal placement of access points to eliminate dead spots and deliver whole-home Wi-Fi coverage, including patios and garages. The idea came about a couple of years ago and work has been actively ongoing in the alliance since about the spring of 2016.

CableLabs and Ruckus are among those voicing support for the program.

"CableLabs is excited about the rollout of the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design certification program, as it will help bring Enterprise-class Wi-Fi performance to the home. A major focus of ours is standardized internet service delivery to and throughout the home and this program gives new Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design homeowners a professionally designed Wi-Fi network,” said Josh Redmore, lead architect for wireless at CableLabs, in a prepared statement.

Granted, installing high-performance networks is not typically associated with a home builder contractor’s expertise, but they all use contractors and subcontractors. The Wi-Fi Certified program provides assurance to the home buyer that what they’re getting meets the standards for best practices. Basically, it’s baked into the blueprints of the home and takes into account building materials and other factors that can affect RF performance.

Lennar’s Wi-Fi Certified home designs represent the first broad residential installation of Ruckus Unleashed Wi-Fi access points and ICX switching. Ruckus is providing each Lennar home with high-performance Smart Wi-Fi technology.

Of course, the question of cost and affordability comes into play: Is it just high-end homes getting the grand Wi-Fi treatment? Ruckus said its Unleashed controllerless Wi-Fi is an affordable wireless LAN solution that can be deployed in minutes, making it ideal for a national homebuilder like Lennar, which builds tens of thousands of homes every year at an entry-level price that makes it ideal for residential installation.

Lennar plans to begin offering Wi-Fi Certified home designs in July, with the aim of providing it to the entirety of its national footprint by the end of the year. Features include support for smart home products such as doorbells, thermostats, lighting, music, as well as Samsung's SmartThings home-control platform and Alexa-enabled products that connect customers via voice to smart products in their home.

The program doesn’t call for a particular version of Wi-Fi. Over time, it’s possible that some of the installations could incorporate WiGig.