The Importance of Network Architecture
At Spot On, we have long believed that WiFi Calling would end up being the go-to solution for In-Building voice, especially in the multifamily/ multitenant industry, due to its relative inexpensiveness, ability to be quickly deployed and desirability among residents and tenants. We have tested dedicated WiFi calling networks for years now and have 3rd party test-verified our WiFi calling solution with QOS to be not only as good as cellular, but in many instances offering better reliability and call quality. That being said, not just any WiFi connection will be able to provide similar results.
As discussed in Part I, QOS and voice pack prioritization need to be present in order to ensure that data packets do not interfere with voice packets and that voice packets are always passed with priority. While voice traffic uses very little in the way of data, it needs to have a consistent signal to maintain call quality and reliability. This differs from data traffic where one may experience lag or buffering, but the experience is not completely lost. If WiFi calls over a network drop due to the network being overwhelmed with data traffic, that network can really not be trusted as a voice solution.
The Case For Carrier Class Property-Wide WiFi: Multifamily/ Multitenant vs. Single-Residential Space
While there are differences between how data and voice are transferred over a wireless network, there is one big similarity – in a single family residential space, a single router/ individual solution can work with decent results, however in a MDU/ MTU scenario, individual routers and networks can cause significant reduced experience. This is the same for both data and voice. In a high density area, too many radios can cause signal interference and overlap, which can reduce signal strength and cause signal inconsistency. As discussed in Part I and above, while reduced signal strength and inconsistency will cause poor user experience for data, it can destroy user experience for voice. Building owners cannot rely on individual resident routers in apartments to provide an adequate voice solution. In addition, individual router scenarios will not allow for property-wide voice coverage, so a resident would still be without voice in the hallways, corridors and community spaces.
In order for WiFi to be used as a total in-building voice solution, it needs to be deployed property-wide, covering all areas of the property with the proper network architecture to ensure constant and consistent connectivity for users.
The first step to property-wide network coverage for MDU/ MTU buildings, is to have a centrally controlled, property-wide architecture, eliminating radio interference that is caused by multiple radios in one space. Spot On uses a patent pending tessellated grid design that allows for maximum coverage, ensuring that two access points are always covering a user, while mitigating signal interference with remotely controlled channel use and access point placement. This allows for constant and consistent coverage for users as well as reduced interference and the ability to remotely make any network or channel adjustments. Spot On also uses a proprietary web application that monitors the network and alerts to equipment or signal issues and allows for adjustments to be made by our Network Operations Center before they become a problem that can cause a reduction in user experience.
Shared vs. Dedicated Bandwidth
Central, managed control of the wireless network is necessary to provide dedicated bandwidth to each device, ensuring the device is getting what it needs to use the feature, be that data or voice. In an individual residential setting, bandwidth is shared among users. So, if a household has a 20 Mbps Internet plan and uses a wireless router – that 20 Mbps will be shared among users and there is no control over how the bandwidth is shared. If one user is streaming a movie, they could be hogging all the bandwidth, leaving little left for the other users and an unreliable connection. As discussed previously, this unreliability is a barrier to voice call quality. Spot On network architecture uses a dedicated bandwidth approach. Bandwidth is allocation by device and is not shared among users – so there is insurance that each device is getting the bandwidth it needs to operate.
The Wireless Backbone
Another barrier to providing the consistent and reliable connectivity that is necessary to provide WiFi Calling as a viable voice solution can occur in the form of IoT. The networks that we are building are becoming more and more complex by the minute as building owners request support for new wireless devices as amenities; Fitness Equipment, A/V equipment, HVAC controls, vending machines, door locks, security cameras and more are all becoming a part of the next generation MDU/ MTU building. These devices, similar to property data services, simply cannot sit on the same network as voice traffic, nor should they sit on the same network as data traffic. However, building multiple physical networks out is not only a sloppy approach but can cause poor quality, interference and is not a modular, future proofing solution that is sustainable with the proliferation of WiFi devices.
Spot On has developed the Wireless Backbone network architecture to deal with this issue. We build one, centrally controlled physically network that is monitored by both our diagnostic software and our live Network Operations Center. We then create multiple Virtual Local Area Networks to separate traffic and support IoT with dedicated bandwidth. This is a controlled, modular approach that allows for the easy addition of support for future wireless devices and solutions. In fact, properties that have deployed our property-wide WiFi Backbone already, will quickly and easily be able to have access to a dedicated WiFi calling network with QOS.
In the next segment, we will discuss the importance of Network Management and how a carrier class WiFi network can not only provide property-wide In-Building voice and data service, but how it can ease the burden of providing those services for the building owner and future proof MDU/ MTU properties for coming wireless technologies.