Trying to solve the home networking technology challenge

Home networking used to be a purely wireless play, with the advent of the 802.11 standard and compatible devices allowing remote Internet access to PCs. But over time, as other home entertainment devices gained network capabilities, it became evident a standard allowing for a larger amount of data was needed for the home network.

The meteoric rise in bandwidth consumption in consumer homes due to the proliferation of HDTV channels and online video is another reason home networking is rapidly becoming seen as a necessity. To deliver a positive HDTV experience to the end user, service providers must provide QoS guarantees and effective bandwidth management to maintain reliability for their services. Ultimately, home networking will allow content captured on a set-top box or other home electronic device to be played on any compatible device connected to the home network.

Several groups developed standards for providing increased bandwidth across home networks using different means for data transfer, all of which have pros and cons.

Rob Gelphman, chair of the marketing work group for the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCa), touts the ubiquity of coaxial cable connections in U.S. homes as the reason MoCa's standard is the most feasible for next-gen home networking. Gelphman defined home networking as a more efficient means of capturing information and data and sharing them among IP-enabled devices in the home. He said it is attractive to vendors and service providers alike, because it will lead to more equipment sales for the vendors and higher ARPU for the service providers.

Security and QoS issues also make MoCa the standard of choice, according to Gelphman.

"Coax is inherently shielded from the environment, and you can't break into the coax network like you can with WiFi technology," Gelphman said. "Powerline and HomePNA operate below 50 mHz, and they can all interfere with other signals, which is not acceptable for an HD viewing experience."

Gelphman also noted that around 90 percent of dwellings in the U.S. have some sort of access to coaxial cable plants, making MoCa very easy to deploy without additional wiring in the home.

Rich Nesin, executive director of the Home Phoneline Networking Association (HomePNA) said the HomePNA standard is the fastest home networking solution currently available, and therefore best suited for the rigors of deploying broadband video and IPTV.

Nesin said the main goal of the home networking groups should be to become "invisible enablers" for the evolving content consumption habits of consumers. He made the point that end users really doesn't care which standard is deployed in their home network, as long as the content they want is accessible on the device of their choice as quickly as possible.

Nesin said four of the five largest North American telcos have adopted the standard, making HomePNA is the de facto delivery standard for telco TV in the U.S. and Canada. Nesin also admitted, however, that the market for IPTV services is markedly smaller in the U.S., as he estimated HomePNA is deployed in a couple of million U.S. homes.

He mentioned that there has been more interest in HomePNA from telcos in parts of the world where DOCSIS 3.0 cable technology has not been brought to mainstream, as these companies are finding HomePNA solutions more affordable to provide access and TV services to customers. He said HomePNA is actively helping service providers share knowledge to bring down installation costs by developing a self-installation model. This transition involves the development of remote maintenance and testing tools to make self-installation a success, and Nesin says these processes are coming along well in tests. Eventual success with self-installation kits (think better than satellite ‘do-it-yourself') would lead to a more profitable investment for the service provider, according to Nesin.

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