Part 4: Powerline networking and the wireless challenge

FierceTelecom: What's one of the factors in powerline wireless networking not getting to work? A bandwidth issue?
Thompson: It's more of an interference issue. It's similar to, if you're not careful with an HPNA deployment or some HomePlug deployments. Wireless will work really well a lot of the time. But then you get a case where you're trying to watch TV, somebody's talking on the telephone--which is also operating on the same 2.4 GHz spectrum--and maybe somebody else pops popcorn in the microwave to bring back to the TV, and all of a sudden the picture starts going out. Or, you're in an apartment or a condo building and there's just so many of your neighbors who've got WiFi routers or they're sending out their signals and it ends up being noise on yours.

There's only so much wireless spectrum available and we're all trying to do it with omnidirectional antennas--just plug it in, sit it there and let it work--so an installer might come into your home and put a wireless gear ... and you come along a week or two later and clean your desk and decide this router doesn't look good where it was put, you put it underneath the desk. Well, that just completely changed the wireless characteristics, and you may have just broken your signal by 10, 20 decibels, which is enough to start getting some artefacting of the TV that you weren't getting before. You call up tech support and they don't even know what to try. 'Our installer notes say everything was working great, now it's not working.' So they end up rolling another truck, and that just adds another cost to it.

Every carrier--I know one carrier that's still trying to do it with wireless in North America by using special antennas. However, they still have some trouble with things that I just described. ...The reliability on it just is not good enough. We don't put up with the little artefacting, we want it to be crystal clear, we want it to be perfect all the time. Wireless today is not capable.

FierceTelecom: So wireless powerline networking might be a problem for IPTV?

Thompson: We were all hoping 802.11n especially with a large number of antennas like a 3x3 or 4x4 antenna configuration was gonna work for IPTV, but that has not proven out. We do see some things on the horizon, some smart antennas, things like that that might help, but it's always looking at what's the next one and what our best practices and recommendations are for our customers.

Part 4: Powerline networking and the wireless challenge