MWC 2018: Nokia's Wi-Fi play

Nokia has told ZDNet that its acquisition of Unium and launch of Nokia Wi-Fi will solve in-home coverage problems using intelligence and automation.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor on

Nokia's new mesh Wi-Fi system

(Image: Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

Finnish networking giant Nokia is strengthening its play in the intelligent Wi-Fi space, this week launching Nokia Wi-Fi and announcing the acquisition of Unium as part of what it said will solve the issues that have long plagued coverage.

Speaking to ZDNet during Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in Barcelona, head of Home Devices Mike Chen said Nokia has added greater intelligence and automation capabilities to its mesh Wi-Fi solution.

"We're responsible for helping our partners to distribute flawless service to homes, and with the prevalence of Wi-Fi, now the users' expectation is that the service is distributed throughout the entire home," he explained.

"But because of the environmental issues, thus far Wi-Fi is hit and miss ... and so at [MWC] we're announcing Nokia Wi-Fi; it has the ability to be able to proactively identify and resolve, foreseeing as well as unforeseeing Wi-Fi-related issues.

"The core of this solution is that it has an intelligent network engine that in real time monitors the environment."

The new Nokia Wi-Fi product has an intelligence network engine and built-in 1x1 antenna that scan constantly for Wi-Fi-based and non-Wi-Fi-based interference, Chen said, such as microwave usage, oversubscribed broadband, problematic devices, and neighbours' networks.

The information is then displayed on a home portal that the user and their care agent have access to.

"[They] will then be able to quickly help the user identify the network pain points and resolve them, and then with that, the system also needed a real-time switching mechanism to help the user to reconfigure the network as well as steer clients to the strongest beacons so that it can maximise the network performance," he explained to ZDNet.

Read also: Top 5G announcements from MWC 2018

Nokia's acquisition of Unium, announced earlier this week, has meanwhile allowed it to add distributed mesh architecture to the system.

"[Unium] have spent years looking at ways to solve complex wireless problems for mission-critical applications, and so in working with Unium, we have created an intelligent meshing technology," he said.

"With this intelligence in play, the system will be able to understand from the client all the way to the gateway or to any destination on the network what is the most ideal path so that each connected client can achieve the most optimum performance. And even if the path needs to be changed or rerouted, the system can take as little as up to 500 milliseconds to be able to make that change, so that to the end user, any reconfiguring of the network is unnoticeable."

The mesh architecture also means not all data needs to go through the gateway, preventing the loss of throughput, Chen said.

"In the Wi-Fi space, there is a phenomenon called hopping, so any time where you hop through an access point or a beacon, the Wi-Fi throughput gets cut in half because the same radio needs to share the same air space to be able to send and receive," he explained.

"So when data needs to then be routed from an access point to the gateway and to another access point, the problem gets greater because it needs to go through multiple hops versus just being able to send data from point A to point B.

"So hence the third value add, which is what we offer by intelligent mesh standpoint so that it greatly improves the overall network efficiencies."

Nokia had announced its Unium acquisition plans earlier this week, saying the Seattle-based company's consumer and enterprise carrier-grade mesh networking technology would help eliminate dead spots and prevent bottlenecks.

"Today's Wi-Fi solutions still have serious issues with sticky clients, interference, coverage gaps, and capacity issues," Nokia president of Fixed Networks Federico Guillén said.

"With Unium inside, our Nokia Wi-Fi solution will deliver an unmatched user experience, going beyond what standard mesh Wi-Fi solutions deliver today."

The acquisition is expected to finalise by the end of Q1 2018.

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