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The New Customer Premises Networks

12:55 PM Techs must get prepped as cable enters a new era of home networking that extends well beyond just coax

August 10, 2011

3 Min Read
The New Customer Premises Networks

12:55 PM -- The modernized customer premises network now has four different physical layers that can be used to connect CPE, and today's cable installers need to be comfortable with all of them in this new age of home networking.

The first layer is traditional services over coax, where analog TV and QAM channels containing both digital TV and high-speed data (HSD) can be found, and the latter now transports conventional Internet, Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) and voice over IP (VoIP).

The second layer is the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) scheme, which connects gateways, conventional STBs and DVRs, wireless access points, game consoles and so on, and is the technology used for whole-home DVR. Since MoCA RF usage goes as high as 1650MHz, the need for top-notch installation in the home is critical to its proper operation.

As for the third home network technology, wired Ethernet, earlier versions of CATegory 5 (CAT5)/100Mbit/s are now giving way to Gigabit Ethernet-speed home switches and routers that require CAT5e or 6 cable to deliver the maximum throughput possible. It's not always appreciated that the difference between CAT5e and 6 is actually quite substantial -- 100MHz vs. 200MHz of physical bandwidth -- and while the RJ-45 connectors for CAT5 and 5e support a near-end crosstalk (NEXT) rating of about 43dB, CAT6 connectors improve this isolation to 54dB. This means, for example, that CAT6 wires and connectors can transmit GigE data speeds with far fewer errors. But CAT6 connectors and connectorization are different, and cable installers must understand the higher requirements for them if they are to achieve optimal performance in premises Ethernet wiring.

The final home network technology is wireless, where a revolution in terms of antenna technology and the use of channel bonding has been effected through the adoption of 802.11n. Multi-input multi-output (MIMO) antenna technology in 802.11n devices means higher antenna gain and thus longer link ranges and/or higher data speeds. And channel bonding means that up to 300 Mbit/s can be supported on ideal 802.11n networks. The actual speed is often far lower, however, due to devices not supporting channel bonding, the presence of 802.11b/g devices on the home network, and co-channel interference from nearby 802.11n networks that cause the system to drop to single-channel operation.

So our next generation of cable installers must be aware of many new home-networking technologies. And even though they had the skills necessary to set up home networks as recently as five years ago, these skills must be updated to handle the higher bandwidth and the more diverse home networks of the modern era.

The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) will naturally be there, with new manuals and e-learning that cover all of these home network types, as well as advanced training courses, primers, LiveLearning webinars, and even a workshop on modern home networks at the 2011 Cable-Tec Expo (Nov. 15-17 in Atlanta).

— Daniel Howard, SVP, Engineering & CTO, Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE)

This is the latest installment of "Technically Speaking with SCTE," a monthly blog of interviews and columns to provide Light Reading Cable readers with timely updates on the SCTE's initiatives and activities.

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