Will 2014 Be G.hn's Year?
The G.hn home networking standard promises gigabit speeds over any line -- power, coax, or phone. While deployments have been unexpectedly slow to materialize, John Egan, president of HomeGrid Forum, predicts that this will be the year we'll finally see G.hn in action.
Egan said service providers will be the driving force behind G.hn rollouts in 2014. Plus, he noted, the technology should also begin appearing in retail stores by the middle of the year.
Egan cited numerous instances of service providers planning to implement G.hn in the near future. Among his examples: China Telecom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CHA) is committed to G.hn; Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) has decided to standardize on G.hn across its multinational footprint; Korea Telecom is in field trials; and Portugal Telecom SGPS SA (NYSE: PT) has completed field trials in Brazil and is now planning rollouts.
In addition, Egan said that the HomeGrid Forum has talked extensively with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) in the US, and he included the North American market in his projections for G.hn's 2014 success. Because G.hn works over any wire, Egan explained that the prices should come down quickly, making adoption everywhere easier.
On the retail front, Egan couldn't share any deployment specifics. But he pointed out that Best Buy sits on HomeGrid's board of directors. He suggested that G.hn could start showing up in wall units designed to plug into power outlets (aka wall warts), and even embedded in charging devices from CE manufacturers. The connectivity would supersede what consumers get today from wired and wireless connections in the home, and would make higher-bandwidth applications easier to support.
Of course, G.hn has plenty of stiff competition. The Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) (HPNA) standard joined G.hn under the HomeGrid umbrella in 2013, but other wireline technologies, including HomePlug Powerline Alliance (HomePlug) and Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) , are well entrenched networking alternatives.
G.hn's potential advantage is its promise to deliver higher speeds for in-home networks -- making applications such as 4K TV easier to support -- and offer greater flexibility in deployment. While the standard was completed in 2010, though, it hasn't yet taken off commercially yet. (See HomeGrid Forum Merges With HomePNA Alliance and MoCA Drives Home Networking Market.)
Further, Ganesh T S, a senior editor at AnandTech, reported out of the Consumer Electronics Show that many networking vendors still appear "to be committed to HomePlug for the near future. None of them have any G.hn products in their pipeline currently."
Egan admitted to Light Reading that expectations for G.hn's time to market were initially overblown. "Everybody thought it would be available immediately… but it was a brand new technology," he said. "So people hadn't built the chips. And it takes 18 months… from the time the spec is done to the time the chip is done."
To get a sense of what G.hn can deliver, the HomeGrid Forum ran several demonstrations at CES this year highlighting its performance capabilities. One demo showed seven TVs all running different HD streams that were fed over IP from a single network-attached server.
Egan claims interference isn't an issue either. In fact, he noted that G.hn could run alongside other networking technologies on the very same wire. G.hn and HPNA, for example, could run on the same coax line. Or, a service provider could keep HPNA running on the coax cable in a home, but implement G.hn on the powerline for added capacity.
As a deployment scenario, Egan suggested that any consumer upgrading to 4K TV service might get a home networking upgrade at the same time. However, ultimately Egan sees G.hn going much further. His vision, which he confesses to having stolen from at least one service provider: "G.hn will be the backbone network in the home."
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading