Home networking: Evolving technology and exploding bandwidth demand leading to wide array of solutions

Home networking is becoming increasingly important as customers seek to distribute video around the home, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Demand for bandwidth within the home is exploding. Millennials expect over-the-top video. DVR access is desired all around the house. The number of Wi-Fi-cable devices within the home is growing steadily. What does this mean for home networking?

Donna Yasay, president of the HomeGrid Forum, told FierceInstaller that the percentage of homes in which wireless solutions would suffice recently topped out at about 80 percent, but is now falling. The decline is due to many factors, including the rising number of devices demanding bandwidth and spectral interference.

This seems ironic, given the reality that the newer 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard provides roughly three times the bandwidth of older 802.11n equipment.

The market seems to have "come full circle," Yasay said, as the deficiencies of Wi-Fi are bringing increasing scrutiny to home wiring solutions.

In some ways, exploding bandwidth demand in the home parallels exploding demand in the macro network. In a recent interview, IHS analyst Daniel Finnos said that for some, the solution is a hybrid of the two, with a cable solution going throughout the house and Wi-Fi routers or extenders appearing at various points throughout the house.

Asked whether this solution is similar to a carrier distributed antenna solution, Finnos said that that was "a fairly accurate analogy."

Yasay said that in the U.S., homes built after 1975 generally have coaxial cable for a networking solution and added that HomePlug solutions via electrical wiring is also a viable solution for networking. Category 5 cable is an excellent option in some newer homes, but few homes overall have this kind of cabling. A lucky few have optical fiber or even plastic optical fiber in their home.

This will be an interesting soap opera to watch. However, there is no room for dogma. Wi-Fi capabilities are improving, but clearly, they provide no panacea. Even if they did, every home is different. The stakes are increasingly high and in-home bandwidth demands are similar to those experienced on carrier macro networks, so each family must be well-informed and adapt its own solution to its own circumstance. --Jeff