Will wired home networking standards ever converge? Although G.hn seems to be moving forward, the HomePlug and MoCA supporters are drawing closer to one another to aid in their mutual survival. After interviewing the key players on all sides we are impressed with how widely divergent their views of the same developments seem to be. The wildcard is the continuing purchase of the smaller players by larger ones with broader interests.
G.hn Skeptics: "Nobody Needs Another Incompatible Standard" (BBHR 5/17/2009)
Although G.hn enthusiasts believe it will become the dominant home networking standard over existing wiring, skeptics say G.hn is just another standard that's incompatible with all the others. The HomePlug folks told us they're trying to change G.hn before it's too late. The MoCA folks think it's irrelevant.
Home networking is moving quickly into the consumer electronics space. At CES we saw lots of CE devices incorporating some form of networking: MoCA, G.hn, HomePNA, UPA, HomePlug, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth were all well represented. Broadcom showed new chips with integrated MoCA, G.hn continues to gain traction, and Wi-Fi keeps expanding.
The rationale for G.hn is simple: it's not possible to grow a worldwide market with five mutually-incompatible "existing wiring" technologies that often interfere with each other. For over two years there has been a standards effort in the ITU to create a common standard for home networking over existing wiring. Big players like Intel and TI are enthusiastic about G.hn but saw a need to form a companion organization, HomeGrid Forum, to accelerate the standard and make an early start on interoperability testing and certification.
Diagnosing Broadband Problems--How Do Consumers Cope? (BBHR 4/8/2008)
During the past three months, Dave has spent a lot of time coping with one broadband problem after another, including local networking and broadband access issues. Now that he has finally resolved most of them, we've been thinking about how consumers can possibly cope as they run into similar issues.
It may not be first in mindshare, but HomePlug powerline networking seems to be the problem solver for anyone who discovers it. We've been HomePlug fans ever since our first trials back in 2002, and learned at the MoCA conference that our fellow panelists had also used it to rescue them from networking problems in their homes. We long for the day when we can walk into a retail store and actually have a sales person suggest it, rather than scratching their heads when we request it.
While high-speed wireless networking is moving rapidly to fully-interoperable products, powerline networking seems to be going in the opposite direction. Three entrenched groups with comparable but non-interoperable product lines are coming to market simultaneously. The products appear attractive, but it's hard to see how consumers can sort through the conflicting claims, and nearly impossible for them to figure out what will work with what.
A mass consumer market for media networking is dependent on new high-speed networking technologies that don't require new wiring. Many of these technologies are now reaching the market and fighting for market share.
Home networking is approaching a new milestone. Many emerging consumer applications require networking technologies capable of moving video around the home. Depending on whom you talk with, you'll hear very different views of the roles of wireless, powerline, coax and telephone wiring. We believe that just as the last generation sorted itself out, with Wi-Fi that generation's winner, one of these new technologies will grab a larger chunk of the market than the others -- and some may be relegated to a footnote in home networking history. We overview some scenarios and the technologies vying for the winner's circle.
CES 2005--Tomorrow's Cool Toys Need Today's Cool Chips (BBHR 1/25/2005)
Most people visit CES to look at the cool new toys. We spent much of our time talking with more than a dozen semiconductor companies--looking at chips for powerline networking, ultra wideband (UWB) and the next generation of Wi-Fi based on MIMO. The chips may not make you deliriously happy, but the products they power have the potential to excite consumers.
Standards play a large role in the success of new technologies, and we heard a lot about new standards at CES. Some companies are bringing products to market ahead of standards, and many other companies are upset with them. This got us thinking about the proper timing for standards.
What happens when a market need is there, but standards have not caught up? For some silicon vendors in the powerline communications networking arena, the pragmatic answer is to supply your solution if you think it's a good one. Then you can adapt to the standards once they are in place and responsive. We heard more about this from the CEO of DS2, which has announced their 200Mbps chip without waiting for HomePlug AV.
It wasn't exactly an exotic vacation, but a recent trip provided us the opportunity to try out three very different forms of portable broadband. One system was designed for use in a moving vehicle; another, sporting a low entry price, for traveling to various spots around town; and a third for people in municipalities that believe portable broadband should be a public service, like roads. We saw a HomePlug wallmount Ethernet module used to extend the service to other places in the house from where the modem is positioned to receive the best signal.
We love the concept and evidently those in Europe do too--we're talking about HomePlug. Simply plug a product into a HomePlug-equipped electrical outlet and it is networked. In a series of interviews we explored the progress on raising speeds that will be achieved over these powerline networks in the home. We also heard about how the upcoming HomePlug AV spec is being positioned as a starting point for standardizing "access BPL".
Powerline networking seems like a natural for home networking, yet it has been eclipsed by the tremendous success of Wi-Fi. The recent purchase by Intellon of its competitor Cogency made us wonder how the combined company is planning to grow their chips into a major force in the market. Our interview with Intellon CEO Charlie Harris and President Ron Glibbery provided a sense for their plans going forward.
We used HomePlug to solve an audio networking problem: how to connect our AudioTron into our PC network when there's no Ethernet outlet near our main audio system. We also report on recent tests of two new ST&T adapters.
We completed our in-home tests of HomePlug equipment with two additional USB devices made by ST&T xNetworks and were surprised to find that they performed noticably better than the units in our first series of tests.
HomePlug Powerline Networking - Getting ready for prime time (BBHR 9/9/2002)
In our first report (below) we wrote about home powerline networking products coming to market. We follow up with a report on our extensive in-home tests of HomePlug equipment. Although we encountered some first generation glitches, we conclude that HomePlug works well and could play an important role in consumer networking.
New products for powerline networking based on the HomePlug specifications are starting to come to market. We provide an introduction to HomePlug and report on visits and interviews with Cogency and Asoka USA. The second report (above) covers our in-home tests of HomePlug equipment.
We saw lots of types of home networking technology at CES 2002, and spent a lot of our time there assessing the future of various wireless and powerline networking solutions. Net-net, it's still not clear what home networking technologies will be in the home five years from now.