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The December 17, 2002 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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Broadband Plus: The Year of Home Networking

Cable operators are clearly planning to expand their service portfolios to include installation and support for home networking. Several cable operators have launched home networking offerings, and many others have been running technical and marketing trials. The CableHome™ initiative issued its first specifications earlier this year, and certification tests are under way on the first generation of products.

So it was no surprise that many vendors were showing home networking products at BroadbandPlus. We talked with vendors about many different "flavors" of home networks - wireless, powerline, phoneline, coax - and many kinds of devices from network adaptors to fully-featured integrated gateways.


HomePlug

HomePlug booth --> Click for larger pictureThe HomePlug Home Networking Alliance had a pavillion with many vendors' products. We especially liked the HomePlug Embedded Module from Cogency Semiconductor. It's a small printed circuit board module containing all the circuitry to add HomePlug to a product such as a Cable/DSL router or gateway, a digital audio player, or a VoIP telephone.

ST&T xNetworks showed us a HomePlug-to-Wi-Fi adapter and a HomePlug-equipped VoIP telephone.

Siemens showed a HomePlug-enabled broadband gateway.


Jungo

Jungo's Tania Elfersy and Yaal Eshel --> Click for larger pictureAt the Jungo Software Technologies suite, we met with Udi Yuhjtman (VP Operations), Yaal Eshel (Director of Marketing) and Tania Elfersy (Marketing Manager) for a demonstration of their OpenRG software. We first met Jungo CEO, Ofer Vilenski, several years ago and were glad to see their progress and a live demonstration running on a product that's about to be released. Jungo has recently announced that their gateway software has been integrated with TI's cable modem/wireless LAN residential gateway design. They also have created a CableHome-based HomePlug reference design for gateways with Conexant.

OpenRG is a comprehensive integrated software solution for a residential gateway. The current version includes a Stateful Packet Inspection firewall (just certified by ICSA Labs®, the relevant standards body), support for CableHome 1.0, UPnP, and most flavors of Voice over IP and voice over DSL. Jungo's software will be incorporated into gateway products which they intend to get to market via two methods: service providers and gateway companies that have retail distribution.

The OpenRG user interface is designed to appear in a web browser on a PC connected to the gateway. Although the interface was well designed and comprehensive, it would be daunting for an end user unfamiliar with home networking. However, Jungo's intent is that in the service provider version, the user interface will be specialized to their needs, and they will remotely manage the gateway and hide some or all of the more sophisticated elements. The interface would also be customized by gateway companies that intend to sell at retail.

We're expecting to test an OpenRG-based gateway product in our home soon and are looking forward to using it.


Conexant

We met with Al Servati (Director Marketing, Cable Modem Products) and Reza Mirkhani (Sr. Product Marketing Manager) of Conexant Systems. Conexant claims to be the long-time leader in chips for dial-up modems, and is now focused exclusively on broadband. They make chips for

  • broadband modems (cable and DSL)
  • digital set-top boxes (video encoders and decoders)
  • residential gateways
  • home networking (Ethernet, HomePlug, HomePNA, and wireless)

Before and during the show, Conexant made a series of announcements which taken together may indicate the future direction for cable operators:

  • a single-chip cable modem supporting DOCSIS 2.0 with backward compatibility with the earlier DOCSIS 1.1 and 1.0;
  • the selection of the Broadway 2.0 CableHome software suite from Ashley Laurent for integration with Conexant cable modem chips; and
  • a reference design for residential and SOHO gateways based on Conexant's network-processor and HomePlug chips and Jungo's OpenRG software suite. The reference design includes support for CableHome.

An OEM vendor can build an integrated device with a next-generation cable modem and residential gateway, incorporating support for CableHome and three types of home networking: Ethernet, USB and HomePlug -- all with three Conexant chips and software from Ashley Laurant and Jungo. During 2003, we expect to see OEMs building these devices for distribution by cable operators as they launch home networking solutions.


Broadcom

We met with Stephen Palm of Broadcom for an update on their products. Broadcom is focused on creating and marketing chips for "high-speed transmission of data, voice and video" and has a wide array of hardware and software technologies.

Stephen Palm of Broadcom --> Click for larger pictureStephen showed us their progress with HomePNA running over coaxial cable in the home. While HomePNA was designed for phone lines, Broadcom says it works very well over coax, and Broadcom is providing this technology for a trial with Comcast and Ucentric systems. We noticed a small metal box acting as the interface between the phone plug and coax, and Stephen told us that the manufacturer had contacted Broadcom after reading our earlier article on HomePNA over coax.

Stephen also showed us Broadcom's "54g" technology based on IEEE 802.11g. We discuss this in the "Wireless" article below.

( www.cablehome.org ) ( www.homeplug.org ) ( www.cogency.com ) ( www.stt.com.tw ) ( www.siemens.com ) ( www.jungo.com ) ( www.ti.com ) ( www.icsalabs.com ) ( www.conexant.com ) ( www.ashleylaurent.com ) ( www.broadcom.com )