April 22, 2015 — With the power of Corning behind it, iBwave Solutions 2.0 has begun. The in-building network design is entering the Wi-Fi system planning space, beginning with new features for its iBwave Design and iBwave Mobile software suites that will be announced next Wednesday.
The Wi-Fi industry, which has evolved from single-node systems, has not had to be concerned with interference. But new systems with thousands of access points are being deployed in sporting venues, and carrier data offload is seeing new demands for data throughput.
With DAS planning, iBwave has been providing services to carriers where everything is structured and licensed and the goal is a high-quality RF network. “iBwave is well positioned to emphasize Wi-Fi planning because of its DAS expertise,” Mario Bouchard, iBwave CEO and president, told AGL Small Cell Link in a phone interview.
“Five years ago Wi-Fi technology was pretty basic, but with all the new protocol releases, it is much closer to LTE today,” Bouchard said. “We are used to designing for the LTE modulation scheme and the way the traffic is handled, so handling Wi-Fi the same way is easier for us. The market is there, and that is where iBwave wants to position itself.”
With the Wi-Fi market moving toward carrier-grade requirements, iBwave has determined that the RF planning services market for Wi-Fi is underserved and it wants to bring its experience planning DAS for large stadiums, arenas and subways to future Wi-Fi systems.
“The fact is that we are handling very complex venues for cellular and mixing those technologies together. We can carve out functionality and bring to Wi-Fi the same level of quality,” Bouchard said.
Wi-Fi is important to carriers. It will take a big portion of the data traffic because it is well understood by users and embedded in most every computer and cellular device, Bouchard said.
“In-building systems will be 3G and 4G cellular, but also Wi-Fi by default. It is a matter of having a great Wi-Fi network that is as good as 3G or 4G, where the carrier can control where they send each user and each data session the user is asking for,” Bouchard said.
LTE-U Versus Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi has lately seen a challenge from a new technology, LTE Unlicensed (LTE-U). Bouchard compared the challenge with other battles between technologies, such as LTE versus WiMAX.
“I am still not sure LTE-U is going to fly because hundreds of millions of people will need to change their phones to have LTE-U capability,” Bouchard said. “It is the same type of competition as when LTE beat WiMAX because LTE was just a software upgrade to the existing network and WiMAX required a rip and replace.
“Wi-Fi is everywhere. My kids understand Wi-Fi, and in my house we have at least 25 devices connected to our access point. My mom understands Wi-Fi; no one understands LTE-U,” Bouchard said.
Corning Acquisition will Boost iBwave R&D
Thanks to the Corning acquisition, iBwave will continue to grow in the wireless space with more money to do R&D and launch new products, according to Bouchard, including Wi-Fi-based location-based services and traffic management.
“We still have the structure of a startup company, but we are dealing with the largest ecosystem in the telecom industry. That acquisition is bringing the next phase to iBwave with a better financial structure and the capacity to grow even faster worldwide. That was the big motivation behind agreeing to the acquisition. Corning’s global presence will help iBwave to hire people worldwide. It gives us access to a larger pool of people,” Bouchard said.