2020_Smart_Home_TechThe coming year will mark a tipping point for key network, customer premise equipment, and smart home technology that’s been in the works for years. The confluence of technologies such as DOCSIS 4.0, 6GHz spectrum, and Wi-Fi 6 are pushing a range of new services in the realm of reality. Whether it’s 10Gbps access speeds, more pervasive and powerful home networks, or visual assistants—a range of exciting trends are emerging to improve the customer experience and drive new levels of service capability for internet service providers.

The following are the most important changes we expect to see in the home in 2020 and 2021:

  • WAN Access Speeds
    • Speeds will increase to 200Mbps on average, catering to new services like cloud gaming.
    • Priorities will shift from simply achieving faster raw speeds to getting low-latency performance to support new gaming and virtual reality services.
    • XGS-PON will offer 10Gbps burst capabilities, and more 10Gbps access technologies will begin to emerge.
    • The new DOCSIS 4.0 standard will be validated, enabling 10Gbps lab bring-ups in 2021.

CLICK TO TWEET:CommScope's Charles Cheevers explains why 2020 will mark a tipping point for key network, customer premise equipment and smart home technology.

  • WAN Access Types: Rise in Wireless-Based Fixed Broadband
    • PON- and Fiber-based greenfield deployments will continue to increase alongside overbuilds of networks, especially to service 5G gNodeB installations.
    • Fixed Wireless Access opportunities will see greater recognition as well as deployments on both mmwave and sub 6GHz CBRS 3.5 spectrum and the start of aggregated frequency use on new 5G NR-capable devices.
    • Fiber-deep HFC architectures will continue to gain traction with more and more node splits and DAA architecture rollouts on DOCSIS networks.
    • WAN connections will grow more resilient with an increasing number of applications requiring a higher availability of WAN access.
    • More wireline solutions will offer LTE/CBRS or 5G NR redundancy solutions.
  • Residential Broadband Gateways and Wi-Fi
    • Wi-Fi 6 will achieve greater adoption for its improved performance and range, even in mixed Wi-Fi 5 environments
      • Increasing range will be a key driver in shipping more Wi-Fi extenders, especially with Wi-Fi 6.
    • Architectures will prepare for the inclusion of 6GHz spectrum, with Wi-Fi 6 emerging as deployed devices in the first half of 2021
      • Service providers will lead on the use of new spectrum by owning bookend applications like multi-AP, 4K video to STB, and low-latency gaming support.
      • Laptops and virtual reality headsets may be the first consumer electronic devices to take advantage of this new Wi-Fi 6 clean spectrum.
    • New use cases for Wi-Fi access point capabilities will emerge—to detect motion, improve radar and imaging applications with finer movement granularity—ranging from replacing basic Passive infrared sensor functionality to other health and motion monitoring applications.
  • Residential Set-top – Transition to Smart Media Devices
    • Basic set-tops will evolve to include far field voice, speakers, and visual assistants, leveraging the demarcation of this device in heavy-trafficked rooms and capitalizing on the trend of visual assistance.
      • CommScope have termed this new class of device a Smart Media Device or SMD
      • They will support new Machine Learning and AI driven applications
    • 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 IP set-tops will increase in popularity, improving the performance of Wi-Fi 6 at range.
    • 4K HDR content will continue to see higher and higher consumption rates.
      • Currently, the average bit rates of IP video digested is 4Mbps in the home.
        • This rises in quality each year, but typically is adaptively rate shifted because of Wi-Fi performance issues.
      • Average bit rates are growing at about 400kbps per year, but 2020/2021 will see an acceleration to higher rates as a result of increased 4K consumption with streaming platforms and operator-led video on demand.
    • We’ll see the “amplification” of the video experience.
      • Unified search and ease of integrating new apps are hot topics here.
      • “Middleware” will move to a service delivery platform.
    • Video delivery will see greater AV1 codec usage.
  • IOT and Smart Speakers
    • Main Voice AI services will be increasingly included in service provider solutions.
      • There is a strong desire to add voice assistance to devices ranging from GW to AP’s, Wi-Fi extenders to IoT hubs, and of course the set-top to SMD 
  • Multiple Wake Words will be available on devices.
    • Service providers will offer the consumer the AI assistant of their choice – Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana and others – but they also offer their own Wake Word to offer specific SP skills such as “What’s my Wi-Fi password?  or “Show me my current bill,” which will be unique to their service offering
  • Third-party software-based IoT hubs will be integrated into service providers devices for first forays into new Smart Home and Home Automation initiatives.
    • The gateway, Access Point, and the SMD will serve as the new service providers hubs
    • The IOT experience will be on both the smartphone app and the TV screen in the home
  • Delivery and Virtual Network Functions for New Home Services
    • 2020/2021 will see the rise of containerized drop-in services, where applications can be pointed to the consumer home and ‘dropped’ into the service chain without having to upgrade the monolithic firmware
    • The number of GW and STB applications will be far fewer than those on smartphones—holding to key services such as security, Device Fingerprinting, IoT, Motion Detection, Wi-Fi RRM, and Parental Control.
    • Low-latency helpers will all emerge to be simply ‘dropped’ into the home.
    • New containerized software platforms like Docker and LXC as well as improved hardware platforms with higher MIPS/DRAM and Flash will all facilitate this new cadence of service delivery.
  • 5G to The Home, and Within the Home
    • FWA solutions for 5G NR across the sub 6GHz and millimeter wave bands will grow in adoption.
    • There will be more innovation around the ability to self-install FWA equipment on windows to allow rapid overlay of FWA services in MDU and dense population areas.
    • While Wi-Fi will remain the predominant home attach LAN solution, more innovation will center on increasing the % of time smartphone users tap into 5G vs LTE in the home for consumer satisfaction on 5G smart phone purchases.
    • We’ll see innovation around millimeter wave 5G repeater and beamforming technology not only to the home but throughout the home, with the emergence of new generation internal 5G repeaters or 5G femto cells.
  • Machine Learning and improved Data Models
    • Huge improvements in new Broadband and Video Telemetry will be augmented by IOT device data models utilizing protocols like USP and Data Elements.
    • There will be greater transparency of device and service usage in the home with much more emphasis placed on developing key ML applications for consumer proactive Self Help and other consumer services opportunity.
      • With new privacy requirements like GDPR in Europe, all these solutions will be developed within the rules and frameworks of these new consumer privacy requirements.

As you can see, the next two years will be packed, as we see the real-world deployment of our industry’s most exciting technologies get underway. The big question for vendors and operators is how to make smart investments to capitalize on these large technology shifts. We encourage you to reach out to find out what you can to stay ahead and be positioned for success. Keep in touch and stay tuned.

About the Author

Charles Cheevers

Charles Cheevers is Chief Technologist of CPE (Consumer Premises Equipment) Solutions at CommScope. He’s responsible for the two- to five-year technology vision of CommScope’s CPE business. In this role, he defines new home architectures for CPE devices and cloud-to-ground solutions as well as the evolution of CommScope’s home gateways, set-tops, and connected home solutions.

In his more than 20 years in the telecommunications industry, Mr. Cheevers has been responsible for bringing to market a range of technologies — including DVB, DOCSIS, DSL, PON Network and CPE Video Voice and Broadband solutions. Over the last six years, Mr. Cheevers has focused on delivering the next generation of connectivity and technology-driven user experiences to the home. As a result, he’s played a key role in pioneering major trends in Wi-Fi®, IoT, IP video, TV experience and set-top technology, and most recently AI-driven smart solutions, with the debut of CommScope’s Smart Media Device. 

Mr. Cheevers and his team have also been creating new home platforms for many of the world’s leading service providers. With the emergence of new Wireless convergence solutions in both unlicensed and licensed bands — from 1 to 100GHz — Mr. Cheevers and the CommScope CTO office have been innovating new architectures for consumer and home wireless convergence across Wi-Fi, LTE and 5G.

Mr. Cheevers joined CommScope through its acquisition of ARRIS, where he served as Chief Technology officer of CPE Solutions from 2012 to 2019. He joined ARRIS in 2003 via acquisition of Com21 Inc and was VP Engineering of ARRIS Cadant® C3™ CMTS and D5™ EdgeQAM products. In 2006, he was appointed as Chief Technology Officer of Europe, a position he held concurrently to being GM for the ARRIS Edge QAM business from 2008 to 2010.

Prior to his tenure at ARRIS, Mr. Cheevers was VP of Engineering and an Officer of Com21 Inc and held senior management positions for Apple Inc.

Mr. Cheevers has served on the board of the Open Connectivity Foundation, one of the leading IoT standards initiatives, served on the SCTE organizing committee for 2018 and 2019 and is a recipient of the 2006 and 2011 Cable and Satellite Euro50 award for his contributions to cable technology.

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