CommScope's COVID-19 Customer & Partner Hub Visit
It’s that time of year again, when we look forward to the exciting changes ahead for the connected digital home—and for the technologies that enable new consumer experiences and opportunities for service providers.
Since March 2020, our homes’ digital connection to the world of information has been critical as the global pandemic lingers. It has changed how we work and live, making us increasingly dependent on digital connectivity—we’re visiting virtual doctor’s offices, attending virtual classes, and taking virtual meetings to advance goals at work, and it’s all happening at home.
We’ve learned a lot in the process:
- The importance of improving our access network speeds to support more upstream traffic for video conferencing, collaborative work-from-home (WFH) environments and security cameras
- Discovering that having good Wi-Fi throughout our home is necessary for all the household to access the services we use, as well as the Wi-Fi-connected smart home devices
- The practical measurement of home network performance now includes latency and jitter specifications as consumers understand the tolerances of latency sensitive applications like video conferencing and cloud gaming
- The opportunities that come with smart home devices—in fact, most urban consumers now having 18-20 Wi-Fi connected devices in the home
- Growing consumption of streamed entertainment with IP video and cloud gaming now accounting for 90% of all downstream traffic to the home
- A renewed focus on the importance of home network privacy and security, as well as overall access and home network reliability
- The role of voice-command smart speakers, smart consoles in the way we access services from music to weather, and from cooking recipes to connecting with extended family
- A shared interest of both service providers and consumers to add more services to the home to manage, improve and secure their digital lives
In 2021, we saw consumers buy more and more technology-based products—so much so that we created a supply-and-demand imbalance that revealed the supply chain’s weak links in the availability of silicon wafers and integrated circuits. This imbalance is projected to continue in 2022, and it is expected that new manufacturing capacity will predominantly use new, lower geometry silicon, driving its adoption faster.
In 2021, we also saw the continued development of immersive technologies leveraging mixed reality technologies, and rumors of an even greater push into more ergonomic wearable headsets and glasses for both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications to finally make that seismic market breakthrough.
So, what can we expect in 2022 for the connected home and the consumers who live, learn, work, and play there? These are the technology vectors CommScope’s Home Networks sees as driving consumer adoption in 2022 and beyond:
- Wi-Fi – Three phases in 2022—Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7, all at different lifecycle phases.
- Wi-Fi 6 has shipped in over 2 billion client system on a chip (SOC) devices and is beginning to appear in homes. Adoption is gated by consumers churning their devices or some new must-have application emerging. Today, about 10% of home Wi-Fi client devices support Wi-Fi 6, with the last two years showing a faster increase in Wi-Fi 4 or 5 client devices in the home, particularly for Wi-Fi enabled smart home devices.
- In 2022, we will see more service providers continue to ship Wi-Fi 6 dual-band concurrent access points as their workhorse device for as much as 75% of their installed base by 2025. This provides the best ROI on capital expenditure regarding performance for the connected home.
- With the emergence of unlicensed 6 GHz spectrum, we expect to see the first service providers adopting Wi-Fi 6E in 2022, moving to tri-band performance from the gateway or Access Point (AP) and offering complimentary Wi-Fi 6E mesh capabilities to create the first immediate-use ‘bookend’ applications on 6GHz. Other services will be the use of 6GHz to offload 5G dual-SIM, dual-standby smart phone solutions and offer low-latency Gbps speeds to in-room smart phones.
- 2022 may just see the first certification of Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) solutions for standard power Wi-Fi (36 dBm/4W) in the US. In 2021, 14 companies have already applied to perform AFC functions and it’s expected that first certifications may complete before the end of 2022—affording the US the first 4W capable Wi-Fi solutions.
- And it will be an exciting time in 2022 for Wi-Fi solution developers and OEMs like CommScope’s Home Networks team. We will see the first pre-Wi-Fi 7 silicon samples in our labs as a precursor to the exciting potential of Wi-Fi 7 hitting the market in 2023. Expect to see lots of pre-Wi-Fi 7 elect demonstrations at CES in January 2023, with early prototypes ahead of 2023 product potentials.
We sometimes forget that it’s not always about the sheer bandwidth of an ever-increasing number of spatial streams in Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 7 can exceed 20 Gbps from a single AP) but also the ability to control latency and jitter, and to schedule packets into 6GHz OFDMA. This determinism of Wi-Fi 6GHz will be foundational to the growth of immersive technologies and will allow Immersive head mounted devices to use the high-capacity, low-latency, low-power advantages of Wi-Fi direct at 4 Gbps+.
- Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) C-Band and DOCSIS 4.0 will keep their momentum with Passive Optical Networking (PON) settling on XGS-PON for its sweet spot
- 2022 will see spectrum holders start exploiting their investment in fixed wireless access, as they seek to claim new broadband subscribers from their wired competitors. Money that has been spent in 2021 in the US on C-Band spectrum will be now starting to pay returns as it rolls out to provide reliable, high-speed coverage at range aided by massive MIMO technologies.
- DOCSIS 4.0 will be in its lab testing year in 2022 with early silicon and FPGA solutions available to create test vehicles for network and CPE alike. This testing will work to validate the performance of full duplex DOCSIS and its operationally simpler Extended Spectrum DOCSIS variant. Network upgrades will happen in 2022 ahead of the arrival of the first DOCSIS 4.0 field trials in 2H 2023. DOCSIS 4.0 is expected to begin volume launch of services in 2024.
- PON is going to start to reap returns on the investments made in XGS-PON technologies with more infrastructure and CPE devices cutting over to XGS-PON silicon in 2022 ahead of higher performance services in from service providers. While there is ongoing work on moving to 25G PON soon, it is expected that 10 Gbps XGS-PON will entrench in 2022 and be the staple high-speed low-latency deployment of choice through 2025.
- Matter makes its debut and starts to grow to converge the IoT ecosystem
- In 2020, the world was introduced to CHIP (Connected Home Over IP) and its aspirations to converge IoT protocols on a single standard IP connection to the applications that would control the plethora of different IoT protocols, physical layers, and ecosystems.
- Just over a year later, CHIP is now called Matter and 2021 was its birthing phase as its first releases came together, and the first applications started to emerge.
- In 2022 will be the launch year for Matter and will deliver a new hub architecture for IoT devices to connect to their IP-based applications. From a consumer perspective, it will simplify the decisions on what IoT devices will work with each other and will have them looking for devices that support Matter for this assured integration.
- There will be opportunity for service providers to add value and aggregate IoT services on their Matter capable devices/hubs.
- Low-latency services
- As our networking requirements (both access and home) evolve from simple raw topline speeds to include specifications for latency and jitter, consumers will become more educated in their choices. New AR/VR services will establish baselines of latency and jitter performance that will drive consumers to favor service providers who can achieve and maintain these performance metrics.
- Technologies solutions such as those proposed by the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) to tag services for lower latency treatment on Wi-Fi, as well as access technologies like Low Latency DOCSIS, will allow deterministic platforms to be put in place to drive this increase in new services.
- High-growth services like cloud gaming will start the push and will leverage the deterministic the low-latency performance that will be available on Wi-Fi and access networks.
- Acceleration of video services
- Streaming services has been a rich source of entertainment and the investment in new content sees no sign of abating. In 2021 we saw a large increase in demand for streamers from service providers to address the streaming-first consumer. The sheer number of streaming providers has increased complexity and frustration for many consumers and in 2022 we will see continued focus on aggregating these streaming services to simplify and improve the user experience. Over the next few years, the traditional tuner-based set-top will be replaced with Android TV™ and RDK-V based streamers for entry-level services and Smart Media Devices (SMDs) for added-value services.
- CES 2022 was awash with new 8K Ultra HD TV platforms and an increasing number of AI-driven immersive video applications. With the emergence of higher resolution video for both 2D and immersive applications, new codecs such as VVC will be needed to keep bandwidths down to 50% of where they are today. VVC is expected to deliver 8K p120 rates under 50 Mbps. This will require a refresh of streamers and SMDs to catch this improvement in immersion, quality, and overall satisfaction. The set-top will feature prominently in 2022 as it races to incorporate:
- New Wi-Fi—6E and 7
- New codecs—VVC
- New Resolutions—4K to 8K
- New use cases for smart room solutions—BLE5.x
- Far field microphones for voice integration
- Smart assistant integration
- Matter Integration
CommScope’s Home Networks forecasted these evolutions and have been preparing an answer. Our SMD gives the service providers a foundation for new services as they continue to drive to be the aggregator of video, IoT, smart assistants and new services like security, telemedicine and aging in place.
- Last, but certainly not least, 2022 will be the year the services edge moves en masse to the home
- The past two years has seen an industry push to create a new service delivery platform architecture with a view to be able to distribute new services easily to the consumer. We have already seen the rise of services like Wi-Fi management, security, and parental controls but these have typically been added in monolithic or agent-heavy and proprietary ways.
- With the advent of new technologies like the Downloadable Application Containers (DAC) in the RDK stack and High-Level APIs in prplOS stack that simplify service additions, the industry is set to leverage these new endpoint-driven orchestrated container solutions to create more and more applications for the broadband and video planes in the consumer’s home.
- These applications will drive the creation of something akin to an App store for the service provider industry, and the common platform for innovation of services. Application/service vendors will be attracted to the opportunity to access the service providers’ consumers, and service providers will be working to curate an improved overall experience for their consumer.
While certainty is hard to find in these rapidly changing times, we feel that these trends are already in such broad motion that their impact on 2022 and beyond will be significant—and we look forward to working with industry bodies, partners, and customers in realizing the benefits of these trends in the connected digital home.
 i.e. where both ends of the Wi-Fi connection are provided by the service provider.