Why upgrading residential media and broadband equipment to tri-band is a brilliant plan
The demands on our home networks are greater now than ever before. OEMs are hearing from service providers around the globe who are scrambling to upgrade residential gateways and routers to accommodate the sudden massive surge of streaming content, with long-term implications of more people being “remote”. According to the World Economic Forum:
- Internet usage is up 50% in some parts of the world
- From school lessons to work to doctor appointments, more aspects of our daily lives have moved online
- There is concern that service providers will not be able to accommodate and this drastic shift will “break the Internet.”
In short, customers need new equipment. Fast. But...what is really needed to support the home network of 2020 and beyond?
Today, let’s take a closer look at the technologies playing into the future success of home networks - IPv6, Wi-Fi 6, tri-band routers, and device adaptation technology - and what implications they will have on media, data sharing, and device management.
Let’s start with IPv6. It seems like we’ve been talking about IPv6 forever (ok, well not forever, but a couple of decades). Shortly after IPv4 was introduced, we realized we would (quickly!) run out of IP addresses for devices, and IPv6 was introduced. IPv6 is perfect for IoT, even if it was developed before the term was officially coined. With IPv6 rollout, the limitation on devices was virtually removed and billions of billions of new IP addresses became available for devices entering our world. The address problem was solved, but a huge network challenge looms: device management.
Enter Wi-Fi 6. When we couple more devices with an increase in the need for speed, we see how the introduction of Wi-Fi’s 6E earlier this year makes a lot of sense to those in the world of devices, device management, and content distribution. By increasing the spectrum available for Wi-Fi connected devices, we open up a whole new opportunity for devices needing a higher bandwidth (although sacrificing a bit of range/distance), and a less crowded spectrum in which to send and receive data.
It’s as if we started out on a small one-lane dirt road with the 2.4 Ghz band, added a second paved higher-speed lane with 5.0 Ghz, and 17 years later, opened the gate for another travel lane that is even faster and four times as wide as the other two: 6.0 Ghz.
Routers needed to keep pace with market demand and implemented IEEE’s 802.11 standards over the years. Single-band (2.4) then dual-band (2.4 and 5.0) evolved with “lettered” iterations of the wireless standards: most recently, Wi-Fi 4 (11n), Wi-Fi 5 (11ac) and now with Wi-Fi 6 we are seeing the introduction of true tri-band routers covering 2.4, 5.0 and 6.0. This gives devices the ability to hop-networks and pick applications: e.g. if you only need to have a door alarm sensor in the shed in the back yard (low data, long-distance), 2.4 is perfect. If you are streaming 4K TV in the same room as your router and want to avoid any packet loss (high data, short-distance), 6.0 is a better option.
Think about all the devices and potential devices that need connectivity in the home: alarms, security systems, baby monitors, thermostats, appliances, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, media servers, gateways, set-top boxes, media distribution devices, laptops, computers, watches, printers, smart devices, gaming systems, and more. With the events of early 2020, even more devices are introduced (a significant increase in school remote learning and employee work-from-home devices were added, plus with stay-at-home orders worldwide, consumers look to online media for entertainment. In May, Peloton, the connected exercise bike company, reported 66% increase in sales as coronavirus keeps consumers working out at home. They all need bandwidth and attention, and the channel used becomes important when applications are discussed.
Introducing tri-band Wi-Fi routers addresses a timely need. It’s important that end users have a positive experience with a working network. Consumers often don’t notice when something works perfectly, but the second it doesn’t, challenges arise. Box manufacturers (routers, residential gateways, STBs, etc.) need to make sure their equipment has all the functionality consumers are expecting their boxes to support, and service providers need to make sure their service and the equipment is up to the task. This could be everything from video conferencing (WebEx, Zoom calls and webinars) to smart home/home automation (Ring sends a door notification, Alexa turns on the bedroom lamp), and applications and solutions around consumer media: streaming is the number one consumer of bandwidth in the home (Pre-COVID, video streaming was expected to account for 82% of all Internet traffic in 2020.) https://99firms.com/blog/live-streaming-statistics#gref
Device Adaptation Technology
In the end, using IPv6 and a combination of Wi-Fi bands makes a lot of sense for home networks. One extremely important last thing to consider is how the network is managed. Without taking away from the primary purpose of the device, box manufacturers and service suppliers look for integrated device adaptation technology that doesn’t compromise, just complements, their service.
Think of Lynx Technology’s Twonky Server as the perfect golf caddy to your residential gateway or STB: it serves the right information at the right time to enhance the operations of the box and takes up a minute amount of resources to do so (memory efficient, low power solution optimized to run on your box and not compromise system resources). With Twonky, you can make sure all the features end-users need are addressed, including the options to enjoy videos, photos and music anywhere in the home using DLNA. Your box and service are still the stars - Twonky is just making sure the operations behind the scenes are optimal.