Fon buys XCellAir to boost carrier WiFi smarts

FON moves deeper into WiFi automation, analytics and customer experience management with XCellAir acquisition.

Fon has bought XCellAir, the cloud WiFi optimisation technology company launched by InterDigital.

The deal sees XCellAir’s technology and staff – including the founders – join FON’s carrier-WiFi focussed technical business, Fontech, for an undisclosed sum. XCellAir has developed a cloud-based WiFi quality of experience and analytics product – XCellRAN – that can be thought of as SON for WiFi.

Vendor-neutral, the cloud platform works in tandem with a small software agent that can be installed on any wireless AP to monitor certain KPIs, taking action to automatically optimise elements such as power levels, band and channel selections. Analytics can also be exposed to other operations departments in the business, such as customer service teams. Fon sees the vendor-neutral and cloud-based solution as complementary to its own solutions for operator-managed WiFi.

It also gives Fon greater market presence in North America where XCellAir has gained most of its early market traction, backing up the recent re-location of Fontech COO Enrique Farfan to the region.

The passive approach of operators towards home WiFi monitoring is no longer acceptable

Alex Puregger, CEO of Fon, said to TMN that the main driver for the acquisition was to give FON’s carrier customers a greater ability to manage the quality of WiFi in people’s homes as more devices get connected, and more services rely on high quality WiFi.

“The passive approach of operators towards home WiFi monitoring is no longer acceptable as we more frequently experience problems related to our connectivity, largely due to the increasing number of connected devices in our homes. It generates user frustration and results in high customer service costs and eventually loss of customers.

“Service providers need more precise visibility about what is going on in their WiFi networks in order to ensure better troubleshooting and customer service, and this is exactly the need that we are meeting with this acquisition.

“In the competitive world of telecoms, our solution will allow operators to differentiate themselves from the competition, as well as regain control of the home WiFi arena which is currently under threat from new OTT players.”

XCellAir’s Todd Mersch, Co-founder and EVP Sales & Marketing, said that the deal would enable XCellAir to accelerate its existing plans, including in time commercial expansion beyond the home environment.

“As XCellAir we made the strategic decision to focus primarily on operator managed home WiFi, but the vision remained a common solution to automate the management and optimisation of the entire wireless footprint. FON, specifically the Fontech business, addresses not just Home WiFi, but community, enterprise, public and venue segments as well. You can envision plugging in the RRM, SON, visibility and analytics capabilities of the XCellRAN solution with the various different products Fontech provides for these segments.”

The deal is in-step with a wider trend in carrier networking to move towards more automation of networks based on capturing and analysing specific customer experience KPIs. Although Fontech and XCellAir intend to focus on WiFi for now, Mersch said the company is “uniquely positioned to help customers beyond WiFi as well.”

XCellAir’s wireless optimisation case study with Canadian operator Videotron, webinar and video with Co-Founder Todd Mersch

Fon CEO, Alex Puregger, talks about the drivers behind the acquisition.