2023 Home Network Trends for Service Providers, Consumers, and Technology and Solutions Vendors

From immersive video solutions to Wi-Fi 7, service providers are exploring home connectivity platforms that will enable a new generation of home services.

The coming year could be one of the most foundational periods for the future of homes since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. Providers now have the technical ability to deliver any service on a connectivity platform for performance consumers want at a cost point they’re willing to pay.

Is the broadband industry ready for the next significant investment in home connectivity platforms to allow a new generation of home services? Here’s how I predict 2023 will shake up the home network landscape for service providers, consumers, and technology and solutions providers.

Economic Impacts on Innovation, Investment

Technology innovation and investment will continue but at a more measured pace. As background to 2023, the economic outlook will impact consumer spending and investments in new services and technologies. Many countries face a probable recession and service providers are closely considering the timing of their network infrastructure and home customer premises equipment (CPE) investment from 1 Gbps services to the first 10 Gbps–capable networks – weighing the return considerations for customer growth and retention. On the upside, the supply constraints the connectivity and consumer electronics industry have faced since mid-2020 are expected to improve significantly.

There’s a probability that every new device designed and detailed or more will move to Wi-Fi 7 capability sometime in 2023.

Service providers are expected to continue investing in fiber infrastructure with a rise in fiber and XGS-PON connects. They view this investment as critical for the growth of new subscribers and retention of subscribers through the next generation of consumer services in the next five years. In 2022, the 2.5 gigabit Ethernet (GbE) interface became more common in gateways and, for the first time, in many people’s homes; in 2023, the first 10 GbE interfaces on XGS-PON gateways will debut.

This is a significant step up in Ethernet capabilities that is probably ahead of consumers’ ability to fully utilize but another step toward the “10-gig home.” The fiber technology area is not standing still at 10 Gbps either: International Telecommunications Union (ITU) standards are now complete and the next generation of CPE silicon is in development for 2024/2025 early samples and trials.

DOCSIS 4.0 will emerge first in labs and then in field trials toward the second half of 2023. DOCSIS 4.0 is the next generation of the DOCSIS protocol – at 10 Gbps, it provides an economical path to increasing the life of hybrid fiber coax (HFC) networks.

To get the 10 Gbps speeds on the cable plant, the spectrum currently occupied by QAM video will need to be retired significantly if the plant is not upgraded to 1.8 GHz ahead of the need for more IP capacity. Cable operators have been moving toward “all IP” video with the introduction of 4K UHD–capable Wi-Fi IP streamers/set-tops, and 2023 will see an acceleration of this trend ahead of the introduction of DOCSIS 4.0.

Wi-Fi 7 is the third iteration in Wi-Fi, and, in 2023, will start normalizing its next four years for Wi-Fi performance on this standard. It will be aligned perfectly with the 10 Gbps capabilities of XGS-PON and DOCSIS 4.0 to get – for the first-time – matching speeds across access and Wi-Fi home networks with new levels of determinism and quality of service.

These levels are expected to allow a new generation of home services to emerge. The flagship of these presently has been immersive video solutions, such as Meta’s Metaverse offering. The applications will need the lower latency, speed and reliability service providers now offer to build more realistic virtual applications than ever. They can extend to breakthroughs in hospital-at-home technologies and in-home office solutions.

Focus on Reliability, Cohesive Experiences

Service providers will continue to focus on customer retention and growth in 2023 as they face the highest level of pressure they’ve seen in 15 years. There will be renewed focus on the value and performance ratio for customers, with cost becoming more dominant than speed.

Competing on speed alone is costly for service providers. Consumers are increasingly more aware of their decreasing needs for faster speeds, so new ways to attract customers will emerge, including a focus on reliability and a compelling home application experience. Driving “sticky” applications and good customer experience will be critical in customer retention in 2023.

Reliable and optimum connectivity in homes is now essential. Hybrid working has normalized traffic patterns for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work-from-home connectivity and the usual 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. entertainment peak. As consumers spend more time at home for work, education and entertainment, the tolerance for unreliable broadband continues to lessen. Wired broadband providers will look to provide failover solutions and need to find a model that works for them and consumers. Service providers should lean into reliability and performance commitments, with better mesh solutions and increased software control of services delivered over Wi-Fi.

Latency is becoming more critical than raw topline speed claims. It directly impacts consumers’ perception of service providers – especially in households that include gamers, who will always look for the best solutions to be competitive and win. With Wi-Fi 6 scheduling and new quality of service protocols, gaming services can be realized to define speed, latency and jitter performance levels. CommScope expects gaming to become one of the prominent services to use the 6 GHz Wi-Fi spectrum in 2023 and beyond.

The latest Metaverse experience exemplifies the need for tight controls on speed, latency and jitter and will be paramount for a user-accepted immersive experience. As the broadband industry moves toward more immersive experience services in homes with AR/VR/MR, it will become critical to implement a new level of latency control to maintain proper immersion quality.

In addition, service-aware connectivity and intelligent service management will become more critical. Developers of Wi-Fi solutions need to understand device types and the applications they run to ensure the right service priorities are applied for maximum consumer satisfaction.

Wi-Fi 7 Emerges

Consumers will begin to see increased retail marketing on Wi-Fi. There’s a probability that every new device designed and detailed or more will move to Wi-Fi 7 capability sometime in 2023. Many marketing campaigns around Wi-Fi 7 will determine how quickly consumers value the additional performance. Still, technology and solutions vendors such as CommScope are already in the pro gateway, extender and connectivity Wi-Fi 7 solutions for service providers.

Retail vendors will lead the Wi-Fi 7 wave by enabling higher capacity, lower latency, and software-deterministic Wi-Fi services; technology and solution vendors will follow with Wi-Fi 7 solutions for PON, DOCSIS and FWA access networks as well as Ethernet-based Wi-Fi 7 access points for two-box service provider architectures and retail.

In many ways, Wi-Fi 6E was a fast-tracked version of Wi-Fi to ensure Wi-Fi solutions first used the newly granted 6 GHz spectrum. Still, a tri-band Wi-Fi 7 device will fully use 6 GHz with Wi-Fi 7 allowing applications to leverage total control of the Wi-Fi frequency bands using multilink operation (MLO). The main application for Wi-Fi 7 and the new 6 GHz spectrum is currently Wi-Fi mesh backhaul, and it’s anticipated that most service providers will move to offer a Wi-Fi 7 gateway and extender experience. Specific use of 6 GHz bands will also emerge for lower latency and capacity-driven services such as immersive video applications – so don’t be surprised to see Wi-Fi SSID appear for differentiated lower latency connections.

The U.S. and Canada are at the forefront of regulating the use of standard power (4W EIRP) in the 6 GHz bands – changing the game for 6 GHz Wi-Fi by catapulting it to the front of performance bands and effectively providing 2 to 5 Gbps of Wi-Fi to corners of the largest homes. Several technologies and solutions vendors provide an automatic frequency coordinator solution to access these higher-power channels. North America is expected to be the first area to capitalize on new higher-power Wi-Fi bands for improved capacity and latency at range. In 2023, CommScope hopes more countries will allow standard power in the 6 GHz bands and not divide the world on access to higher-power 6 GHz Wi-Fi applications.

Though much of the focus will be on the new Wi-Fi 7 solutions emerging, there is still a need to drive value-add solutions for existing Wi-Fi 6 solution portfolios. A cost-effective, dual-band access point will remain essential for most deployments in 2023.

One highly discussed question that will be answered in 2023 is whether a dual-band access point device will emerge on Wi-Fi 7 to support better use of 2.4/5GHz spectrum with MLO capabilities or if most of the Wi-Fi 7 gateway and AP devices will be tri-band or even quad-band.

Streaming Video Bundle Relevance

Streaming video services will continue to be the primary source of entertainment, with streaming video making up 80 percent of all content consumed by a typical home in 2023 (10 percent will be devoted to gaming). Increasing the bundling of streaming services will simplify the consumer purchasing and viewing experience as the number of services grows.

Service providers will continue to focus on owning the live and streaming aggregation point on a single streamer/set-top device to make the user experience for content navigation as seamless as possible.

New Software-Based Home Management Paradigm

Beyond quad-play (fixed voice, broadband, pay-television services and mobile service), service providers are exploring the next generation of immersive video solutions and other areas such as telemedicine, eldercare and more.

One essential element of connected homes over the next three years will be the focus on using software solutions to manage and drive services to the house. With the emergent new capabilities of containerized solutions in the broadband CPE open-source software (prplOS/OpenWRT and RDK-B), the ability to easily add and remove services to the gateway will increase the cadence in software service solutions to the home. Coupled with the ability to get detailed telemetry from home devices with new standards, service providers can enhance their abilities to manage quality, manage energy and simplify digital home experiences. The increase in performance of the Broadband Gateway means much of the processing can be done locally – reducing latency and costs for cloud-based processing solutions.

CommScope sees growing momentum in 2023 for Matter, the new smart-home standard, to become the aggregating standard for all home IoT devices. It will enable the preferred smart-home applications consumers want to use.

Building a Sustainable Future

Though attitudes toward sustainability vary across the globe, there will be growing consumer awareness and demand in 2023 for sustainable CPE products with lower power consumption, the use of recycled plastics and the elimination of single-use plastics, and more. Leading service providers have set environmental, social and governance goals, and there will be increasing collaboration between technology vendors, solution providers and operators to deliver solutions that deliver on sustainable, science-based targets.

How the events and economic influences of 2023 will impact the direction of connected consumer homes is unknown. Still, one thing is sure: 2023 is primed to be a foundational year with the ability to truly transform the consumer home experience.

Over the next year, much will become evident: how service providers will partner with technology and solutions vendors to attract and retain customers, how Wi-Fi 7 will be marketed and influence buying patterns, how (and how much) service provider innovation and investment plans will be altered, and what the next generation of home networking holds. But remember: Building the next level of human digital experience is a marathon – not a sprint.


Charles Cheevers

Charles Cheevers is the CTO of CommScope Home Networks.


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