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.
We have reported on Silicon Valley from time to time. This time we briefly report on visits with Ozmo Devices, 4Home, Actiontec and TiVo. Ozmo has an innovative approach to Wi-Fi PAN.
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.
Home networks don't replace everything when a new generation of technology appears. Ubicom is a software/hardware company which helps users get the best out of what they have. Their solutions do pattern recognition on the streams, identifying and prioritizing media traffic ahead of normal data traffic. Their latest gateway design is targeted for supporting HDTV, "toll quality" VoIP and online gaming in wireless networks with 802.11n.
The Wi-Fi Alliance and the IEEE task group have set a common path toward an agreed standard and interoperability testing. Certified interoperable "draft 802.11n" products are expected to reach the market this summer. This should end the consumer confusion caused by the many incompatible "draft n" devices that flooded the market last year
Getting video entertainment to the home is simple compared with distributing the video signal within the home. In addition to various wired approaches, multiple wireless technologies are competing for video distribution. Both 802.11n and multiple approaches to ultra-wideband (UWB) are in the game for multi-room video distribution.
Extending the Range of Metro Wi-Fi--Ruckus MetroFlex (BBHR 9/9/2006)
Ruckus Wireless specializes in smart antennas and smart software for improving the range and quality of wireless networks. Their initial focus was on improving the range and quality of Wi-Fi in the home. In an update with CEO Selina Lo, we learned more about their new product designed to improve performance of Metro Wi-Fi networks. Although investors and analysts thought they were crazy when they first entered the Wi-Fi home networking market, their success to date speaks for itself.
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.
Let's celebrate! There is now a joint proposal intended as the basis for the 802.11n draft standard. Although we don't pretend to understand all the politics involved in coming up with it, we're glad it has been agreed to and is on track for a final standard in mid-2007. But before that happens, we expect many "draft n" consumer products to come to market. That's fine, but consumers should know that "draft n" does not mean products will meet the final spec or interoperate with those of different vendors.
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.
To provide IP-based television services, companies need a way to move video streams from the home gateway to the TV set. That's where the next generation of "whole-home wireless" technologies and products are important. Recent announcements from Ruckus Wireless, Metalink, and a big one from EWC are all pieces in the puzzle of how quickly 802.11n standards will be adopted and products get to the market.
How many remember HomeRF, @Home, Enron broadband backbones, or the broadband subscriber base so small that we reported annual growth rates of 75%? As we reach the fifth anniversary of publishing our Report on the Broadband Home, we look back at where we were in 2000, where we are now and some of the key directions for the next five years. The journey isn't over. Before the end of this decade, we look forward to real "whole home" networking at 100 Mbps, personal broadband and lots more.
Since we first used Wi-Fi in our home in 2000, the technology has made fantastic strides and the latest generation of devices based on MIMO is another leap forward in both throughput and range. We summarize here the results of our third round of tests of Wi-Fi devices, which showed us how far the technology has progressed.
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), the next generation of Wi-Fi based on MIMO and a "one-button" approach to wireless network security. 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.
CES 2005--"Broadband on Steroids": New Wireless Networking Technologies (BBHR 1/25/2005)
Imagine the challenge of trying to keep two CEOs, a promoter Group Chair and a Chief at the FCC each to their allotted time slots. At CES, that was Dave's challenge in a session he organized and moderated on "Emerging Technologies". Topics included new wireless networking technologies for MANs, LANs and PANs plus some views from a long time Chief at the FCC .
What technologies will be important to the cable industry during the next three to five years? That topic is tackled annually by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers at their Emerging Technologies conference. Sandy and Dave both had the opportunity to share some thoughts--Sandy on competitive wireless access technologies and Dave on the evolution of Wi-Fi in the home.
With the enormous success of home Wi-Fi, the segmentation of who bought what flavor of 802.11 had settled down: consumers bought 802.11b/g and enterprises bought 802.11a. It turns out that was just a stop along the road to full home networking of video as well as voice and data. New chips and products based on them suggest that 802.11a will be a big part of the consumer solution for video networking. We expect to see an increasing number of a/b/g devices as new networked video products hit the market. Microsoft is playing a big role in pushing it along.
802.11a for Consumers: An Interview with Atheros Communications (BBHR 8/15/2004)
We met with Atheros Communications to learn about the future of 802.11a, and looked at some technology advancements for consumer applications.
Another Networking Project -- It's Easy If You Update Firmware (BBHR 3/25/2004)
Some people never learn. Dave volunteered to install another network - for our daughter this time. It went almost without a hitch - but reinforced why it's important to update firmware.
We are updating our earlier evaluation of Wi-Fi products, testing access points and notebook adapters with all three "flavors" of Wi-Fi. Our first report on Round Two establishes a "baseline" for the maximum throughput for each technology. We've seen improvements since our first tests, especially in 802.11g.
Wireless Video Networking -- Update on Bermai and ViXS (BBHR 1/22/2004)
With growth of flat screens and HDTV on the upswing, the quest for wireless video networking has taken on greater importance. The ideal is to be able to create home networks that carry multiple channels of high quality video plus other data and voice traffic wirelessly, not just within rooms but around the home. At CES we got an update on Bermai and ViXS, two companies that are trying to satisfy these wireless video networking needs.
"Share Your Broadband" -- An Interview with MyZones WiFi Broadband (BBHR 11/16/2003)
MyZones, a UK company offering services based on networked authentication of home Wi-Fi networks, has announced a bundled deal with Bulldog, an alternative DSL provider, encouraging users to share their broadband connections and costs with their flatmates, friends and neighbors. We talked with MyZones' CEO and understood the appeal of this service.
We look into several emerging wireless networking technologies targeted at high-definition television and "whole-home" networking. While 802.11n will leverage the Wi-Fi bandwagon, several technologies based on 802.15 may get to market first--and be the winners.
Digital Dreams Meet Reality -- Creating a Simple Home Network (BBHR 10/20/2003)
Setting up a simple home network should not take twenty hours! When Dave volunteered to install one in his brother's new home, he had no idea how many seemingly easy things could go wrong. After reflecting on the experience, he concluded that there are some things we as an industry can do to improve this, as well as things the end user might be cautioned about.
Over the past two years the idea of sending digital audio over a home network to your analog speakers has gone from "far-out" to products people will be able to buy affordably; although mass market adoption will take some time, the technical and ease-of-use factors for audio are in reach. The next problem--as yet unsolved--is wireless distribution of high-quality video. We're hearing from companies like ViXS and Bermai that the upcoming CES Show in January may make clearer what solutions the consumer electronics companies will decide on.
"Wireless Is Magic" -- Our Evaluation of 802.11g Wi-Fi (BBHR 6/17/2003)
Our first evaluation report on Wi-Fi products covers 802.11g access points and notebook adapters. Wi-Fi has come a long way since the original 802.11b technology and our experience with current versions is much improved over early products. But we don't think 802.11g yet fulfills all the promises that have been made.
Chip companies have the unenviable task of forecasting the future, so their silicon can be ready for not-yet-designed products and services. One way we get a view of the future is to see where companies like Broadcom are putting their resources, and speaking with their leaders to understand why. Broadcom is placing resources behind wireless networking because they believe it will be embedded into many consumer products based on systems-on-a-chip. They want to be ready with all the pieces to create those systems.
We've heard so much hype about Wi-Fi that we thought we'd try to provide a dose of reality. We do believe that broadband wireless has a great future -- but it's not all Wi-Fi in spite of what you read in the press.
Even though the standard isn't expected to be approved until this summer, several companies have started shipping 802.11g products. Since we think 11g will redefine Wi-Fi, we interviewed several key players and bought equipment to test.
Wireless Home Entertainment – Stuck In A Traffic Jam?: A Guest Article by Bill Rose (BBHR 12/17/2002)
Entertainment networks require on-time delivery of data packets. Wi-Fi networks use an Ethernet-based MAC layer without QoS guarantees. Networks such as IEEE 802.15.3, HiperLAN2 and Magis Networks’ AIR5™ present an alternative by using a TDMA MAC layer that guarantees QoS for entertainment networks. This guest article compares the two approaches.
We were struck by a full-page ad with this headline in the Sunday New York Times and thought it was time for an update on things wireless: the emergence of 802.11g products; notebook PCs with built-in Wi-Fi; and lots of activity in hot spots.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has released a new approach to replace the vulnerable "WEP security" before the standards body has fully signed off. Now that the Alliance has started to move in front of standards, we wouldn't be surprised to see more actions to meet market needs for Wi-Fi hot spots.
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.
Setting the pace in wireless networking - A Visit with Intersil (BBHR 9/6/2001)