Home Networks Gain in Speed, Sophistication -- and Importance

Carl Weinschenk

The legacy thinking-which is a fancy way of saying the way old fogies look at things-is that home networks are nice and simple connections that make it possible for a PC over here on the desk to send data to a printer over there in the corner.


That quaint notion is woefully antiquated. This interesting Billing & OSS World piece looks at the increasingly complex world of home networks. Today, it is possible that that simple printer/PC connection is joined by connections between home electronics and entertainment gear, smart grid messaging, home security technology and even health care connectivity. The wires and airways in a typical home environment are getting as crowded as an L.A. freeway at rush hour.


The management of these systems will be further complicated by the fact that the network provider-be it the cable operator, wireless provider or telco-in many cases will only be the conduit for a third party service provider of the actual applications and services.


The home, more than ever, is shaping up as a huge and vital competitive landscape. Service providers and carriers-and their ecosystems of third party, value-added partners-should operate from this simple phrase: own the home, own the subscriber.

The main driver of cable and phone companies' triple and quadruple play initiatives is, of course, to garner revenues from each of those services. Not far behind, however, is the commonsense reality that the more services a subscriber takes from a provider, the less likely he or she is to "churn," or switch to another provider. That's just as true when it comes to the new services. Thus, there are at least two compelling reasons for smart carriers to create as elegant and easy-to-use networks as possible: generating immediate revenue and proper care and feeding of long-term customer relationships.

Industry insiders know how important the home network has become. This week, In-Stat released research showing the fast-paced nature of the evolution. The firm says that home owners are using Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11, power line and phone wiring. The latter two, while a bit slower, have the advantage of ubiquity. The firm says that 802.11x-the blanket term for the various flavors of 802.11 technology-will surpass wired 10/100 Ethernet by the end of this year. It also says that the faster forms of 802.11, led by 802.11n, are ascendant. The release offers a few bullet points on the topic of home networks, which all add up to the same conclusion: There are more networks used for ferrying more types of signals around homes and, in general, networks are gaining speed.

Vendors are aware of the possibilities. This week, Celeno Communications and Israeli carrier Bezeq announced a pilot project focusing on transporting video signals throughout the home using Celeno's Wi-Fi platform. Also this week, Atheros Communications said that it is acquiring Intellon, which offers technology that can send voice, video and data signals over home power networks. The story says that in-home power use is expected to grow in excess of 30 percent annually, though neither the number of years this is expected to happen nor the source of the estimates is provided.

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