IPTV and Multi-room DVR Driving Growth for 'No-new-wire' Connectivity

Monday, August 16th, 2010
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Though wireless is currently king in terms of home networking technologies, the use of wired solutions, particularly ‘no-new-wires’, is on the rise and forecast to experience a boom over the next five years. This is one of the conclusions from IMS Research’s just published report on “Home Networks and Residential Gateways”.

IMS estimates that at the end of 2009, over 70% of home networks in place globally were wireless. Of course, the specific technology employed is 802.11. Indeed 69% of residential gateways sold in 2009 are estimated to have had 802.11 technology built in, a number that is forecast to increase to more than 95% in 2014. And although nearly all of these also had wired Ethernet capabilities, this wired technology is utilized a lot less than the 802.11 link. The main reason for this is the huge volumes of 802.11-enabled consumer electronic and computer devices in peoples’ homes. From notebook PCs, to 802.11-enabled smart phones, to games consoles or portable media players, a typical household in the developed world now has at least one 802.11-enabled consumer electronics device.

Although ‘no-new-wire’ technologies such as HomePlug, HomePNA and MoCA have been around for many years now, they’ve remained very niche up until relatively recently. However, the accelerating uptake of IPTV services has fuelled significant growth in this area. IPTV services from companies such as Verizon and AT&T, have pushed the use of these ‘no-new-wire’ technologies up significantly. In IPTV deployments, the ‘no-new-wire’ solutions provide the link between the broadband gateway and the set-top box in the user’s house. In many cases multiple ‘no-new-wire’ ICs are required in each house. For example, with Verizon’s FIOS TV service, a MoCA IC is required at the optical network terminal (where the fiber WAN connection terminates), at least one (sometimes two) in the user’s in-house residential gateway and then one in each set-top box. IMS estimates that on average a FIOS TV home has three set top boxes, resulting in each FIOS household using 5-6 MoCA ICs. Good news for MoCA suppliers such as Entropic and Broadcom! Similar scenarios are seen in other US deployments of ‘no-new-wire’ networks. Although in other regions, the typical number of set-top boxes per household tends to be lower.

The long standing question many ask is, ‘why aren’t these operators using 802.11?’ The answer is that some are, but many prefer to stick with a wired solution in order to offer guaranteed levels of service, particularly for premium services such as multi-room HDTV – at least for now. A clear sign these ‘no-new-wire’ technologies are now reaching a level of maturity where solid reliable performance is being achieved.

IPTV provided the initial boost for ‘no-new-wire’ networking, but multi-room DVR services are going to give the technology its second wind. Particularly in the US where a number of high profile US cable TV service providers have started purchasing and supplying multi-room HD DVR solutions with MoCA built into the set-top box. In these scenarios the MoCA connection is used to distribute content to multiple set-top boxes and televisions throughout the home. A number of providers such as DirectTV and Comcast fall into this category. In other parts of the world similar services are forecast, not only using MoCA, but other ‘no-new-wire’ technologies such as HomePlug, UPA, HomePNA and HD-PLC.

Unfortunately, this array of technologies is also the thorn in the industry’s side. A thorn that has resulted in the development of two so called “unifying” ‘no-new-wire’ technologies – namely the ITU’s G.Hn and the IEEE’s P1901 standards. However, one should use the term “unifying” sparingly here. The likely result of these initiatives will be that the choice of standard should move from five to three, as HomePlug and HD-PLC will fall under the umbrella of IEEE P1901 and UPA and HomePNA will fall under the future umbrella of G.Hn. However, the outcome may in fact be more confusion, as there is a strong possibility that UPA, HomePNA, HomePlug and HD-PLC will still be marketed as distinct technologies under the umbrella of these two new standards.
Adding to the confusion, there was an announcement earlier this year of a “formal liaison” between the MoCA Alliance and the HomePlug Powerline Alliance. Should people read this as the MoCA Alliance perhaps one day coming under the umbrella of P1901? Probably not, but it still leaves people guessing as to what this announcement actually signifies.

The confusing standards issues will harm the industry to some extent, particularly if the industry is hoping for any significant retail market to develop. However, IMS Research has still concluded that the medium-term future for ‘no-new-wire’ technologies is still very positive. It’s report “Home Networks & Residential Gateways” forecasts that in 2015 approaching 200 million ‘no-new-wire’ ICs will be shipped globally and that come the end of 2015, there will be an installed base of over 110 million ‘no-new-wire’ homes.