Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile use in-building wireless optimization

5G can deliver a true gigabit on some links, but the consumer needs it to work in the home. (Pixabay)

Assia’s technology optimizes indoor wireless signals, and its customers include AT&T, Verizon, Charter, T-Mobile, BT, and Telefonica, to name a few of its 38 carrier clients.

“If you took Assia out of the world today, within two weeks about 50% of 100 million homes — their connection would become unstable,” said Tuncay Cil, chief strategy officer for Assia. “We do last mile broadband management through software that is deployed in the carriers’ networks.”

John Cioffi, who is one of the inductees of the Internet Hall of Fame, co-founded Assia in 2003. The name Assia is actually an acronym that stands for Adaptive Spectrum and Signal Alignment. The company’s technology optimizes broadband and Wi-Fi signals.

"50-75% of the issues in today's access networks are in the final wireless link of the network, often far less reliable than the fiber or DSL reaching the home," said Cioffi in a statement. "5G can deliver a true gigabit on some links, but the consumer demands that the speed and reliability reach throughout the home. The complete system must work together."

Cil said the company invented a technology based on algorithms that does dynamic spectrum management (DSM). “Instead of treating networks as stand-alone closed entities, we’re basically treating them as systems with dynamic behavior,” he said. The company’s technology collects data about the network, including chipsets, other hardware, software, spectrum, neighboring networks and power levels. It then uses mathematical algorithms to describe consistent behaviors. The technology can be aware of this network behavior and optimize it.

“This is done through a lot of machine learning and AI, with hundreds and hundreds of parameters and how they change,” said Cil. He added that wireless networks have an especially high number of variables to take into account. “This is better for us because it increases the need for our software,” he joked.

Assia’s software does much of the heavy lifting in servers in the cloud, but the company also puts some of its computational intelligence in or near the home as well — in a Wi-Fi router or 5G microcell, for instance.

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There’s been some discussion that bringing 5G coverage inside is more complex than it was for 3G and 4G because some operators (Verizon and AT&T) are using high bandwidth spectrum (i.e. millimeter wave), which doesn’t penetrate buildings easily and has limited coverage range. 

Assia’s software actually takes building materials into account as part of the many factors it follows. “The way I see 5G, it’s basically an evolution based on what the carrier assets are today,” said Cil. “I don’t see it as one harmonious thing you deploy. AT&T and Comcast’s assets are different, also Verizon. They will assess where they are today and where they need to go tomorrow, whether they upgrade the RAN, the core network, or send new equipment to handle indoor.”

The company has also developed software that optimizes 4G and 5G links in parallel or in cascade with each other, in the same or different spectra.

Assia’s evolution

To many readers, Assia is one of those important companies that they’ve never heard of. The vast majority of its 100 employees have PhDs. It doesn't put much focus on marketing. “It’s very much an R&D-focused company that does special math to optimize internet connections,” said Cil. The 15-year-old company has offices in Spain and Silicon Valley. It makes about $50 million per year by selling licenses to its software.

Asked whom Assia competes with, Cil said the indoor wireless ecosystem is pretty dynamic right now, but there are certain categories of players. One category is all about policy enforcement — to set and manage a set of rules that define such things as who has access to the network, who gets paid what, and who pays whom? Companies such as Boingo and Cisco do these tasks to make it easy for guests to get on network. “Then there’s another category: equipment vendors for indoors,” he said. “Getting the signal into the homes is pretty difficult.”

Chipset vendors such as Qualcomm and Broadcom, which have 5G NR solutions, also play in the indoor wireless ecosystem. Cil said some carriers such as AT&T and KT are also working on indoor wireless technologies and optimization themselves. And the last category would be companies such as Assia that are using AI to collect information about all the vendors and network systems and increase the performance of the overall system.