June 1, 2006
Entone Inc. unveiled its new intelligent network interface device (NID), Crescendo, on Tuesday and said it will show off the device at Globalcomm 2006.
Unlike other home gateways, Crescendo mounts on the outside wall of a consumer's home and is meant to combine the functions of a DSL modem; a broadband router; a VOIP ATA; and a traditional NID, which connects a home's telephone lines to the phone company's local loop. (See Entone Unveils Home Gateway.)
Carriers are keen to get involved in managing consumer home networks -- they like being able to troubleshoot devices remotely and offer new services with the push of a button. And Entone's new NID is an attempt to further drive down the costs associated with installing those gateways in the first place.
Entone CEO Steve McKay says his company's outside-mounted gateways can be installed quickly and in large numbers. (See RBOCs Want Inside Your House.) “If I’m the carrier, I want my service technicians to be able to install dozens and dozens of homes per day,” McKay says. “That’s what they do today with the NID -- a team of technicians can drive up and do an entire neighborhood in a day, and that’s what this allows.” (See Verizon Moves Toward Home Gateway.)
But the Crescendo's outside-the-home thinking (and location) comes with some tradeoffs.
Many of the new in-home gateways now coming to market act as both a termination point and a distribution hub for voice, video, and data packets. Many also bundle in a wireless access point for sending data wirelessly to other PCs.
But the Crescendo gateway's position on the outside of the house prevents it from acting as the video hub. Rather, the Crescendo routes video traffic inside the house to another gateway -- an Entone Hydra video set-top -- which then utilizes the house wiring to distribute video to other TVs.
The Crescendo also is in no position to manage the wireless transmission of data and voice to other devices inside the home. The device does not contain a wireless access point, as do most of its competitors. Rather, a separate wireless access point can be connected indoors either to a wall jack or to the Hydra gateway.
The lack of WiFi capabilities also prevents the Crescendo from being a convergence point for dualmode VOIP over WiFi/cellular service, like the home gateways now offered by 2Wire Inc. , Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and others.
So why put a gateway outside the home? For some carriers, a clear line of demarcation between the consumer's network and the phone company's network is an attractive feature, according to McKay.
"We hear carriers talk about their technicians showing up to install set-top boxes and then getting saddled with configuring PCs, getting wireless networks to work, getting new-fangled media adapters to work between the PC and TV, etc.," he says. "This is untenable in the long term." [Ed. note: Service! The Horror!]
Like other carrier-shipped gateways, Entone's device will serve as a standardized replacement for the myriad of store-bought home gateways now used by subscribers. “It’s a device that the telco installs and is standards-based and is interfaced with their network management systems so that they know exactly what’s at the other end of the line.”
McKay adds that the Crescendo supports the TR-69 protocol, which was developed by the Broadband Forum to help carriers remotely manage home networks -- even if they don't care to set foot inside the consumer's home.
Entone has been a long-time champion of the “no new wires” ideal now being embraced by operators. The company’s set-top box and gateway products support networking standards allowing the use of existing coax or twisted pair wiring in the home. The Crescendo supports both the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) and Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) home networking standards.
McKay points out that the Crescendo comes loaded with two VOIP ports and POTS support. This enables the carrier to sell retail VOIP service if it wishes. For both POTS or VOIP, subscribers use the phone wiring and equipment already in the house.
The Crescendo gateway will be available in the fourth quarter and is scheduled for trial at three small-to-midsized carriers in the meantime, McKay says.
— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading
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