WiFi: Linchpin for Advanced Services

The next year will bring further advancements toward DOCSIS 3.1, UltraHD/4K and gigabit rollouts to be sure. But in order to reap the benefits of more broadband and advanced services throughout the home, operators also will be looking for faster and better performing WiFi.

And while the talk for a while has been about bringing TV Everywhere to any screen at any time, 2016 should see a move toward bringing all content to a single screen - the TV set. Consumers currently view traditional TV and OTT services as separate experiences. Operators want to unify them by providing both over the set-top box so that people can watch anything on the big screen, said Charles Cheevers, CTO of ARRIS (NASDAQ:ARRS).

Operators have been coming out with new user interfaces (UIs) that are making search and recommendation for video more like what consumers see from OTT services. The extension of this will be to apply the UI not only to live content and DVR services, but also to the other apps people are using. This way there will no longer be a need to switch between HDMI inputs in order to alternate between regular TV and OTT.

"People want to be able to check what is on live, then on the DVR," Cheevers said. "If nothing is there that they want, they (would like) recommendations from video sources like Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and YouTube. Operators see that and will merge the best of their solutions and the best of OTT."

Operators also need to be able to provide all options as far as navigation solutions. This means the modern UI, but also basic up/down navigation, and on the other end of the spectrum, something like Apple Swype or voice navigation.

"People want to pin stuff into only one way to do it," Cheevers said. "(Operators) need to support all of them."

As for WiFi, operators are making choices about what their investment in WiFi will be in order to get topline marketing speeds and looking at extenders that will allow high performance WiFi throughout the home for higher broadband speeds, but also for starting 4K services. The biggest app for WiFi in 2016, therefore, will be the reliable transmission of 4K services. There needs to be 100-140 megabits of airtime available to transmit 25 megabits without buffering, Cheevers said.

Set-tops, in addition to changing functionality, the will also be changing in appearance. "If a consumer gets a gateway that is nice looking ... the consumer is more likely to put it on a visible surface. That will improve WiFi as well," Cheevers said, noting that even with RF, a clear line of sight is better than having the box hidden in a cabinet.

Overall, with multi-gigabit speeds, consumers want to see the reality of them throughout the home, not just on the access network, in order to justify the cost. This is complicated by consumer electronics devices' not yet being geared up to take gigabit speeds. Currently, many tablets and notebooks are capable of 450 Mbps, but this is expected to increase to 750 Mbps to 900 Mbps in the next couple of years.

If a consumer has a 3x3 notebook, the operator has to be able to deliver those kind of speeds to it, Cheevers said. "The Internet is going up to the point where gigabit is needed to sustain the services clients will pull."

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