Cable Tech

Home Networking's War of Words Rages On

The home networking war has been heating up over the summer of 2010, and two combatants, in particular, have been proclaiming strategic success against the newer enemy, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) G.hn standard for home networking over any media. (See Verizon's Pricing Dash.)

The Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) and the HomePlug Powerline Alliance are both touting successes and standards improvements that they feel make the need for G.hn much less certain.

At least one chip vendor thinks G.hn will prevail -- in time. Michael Weissman, vice president of corporate marketing at Sigma Designs Inc. (Nasdaq: SIGM), which makes chips for HomePlug, G.hn, and Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) and is a member of MoCA, thinks both MoCA and HomePlug AV have their place now but ultimately will be eclipsed.

Rob Gelphman, chairman of MoCA's marketing work group, thinks not.

"We see G.hn as having zero impact -- I mean that seriously and I'm not just being nasty," says Gelphman. He points to MoCA's ratification of version 2.0 standards this summer and its recent win with Cincinnati Bell Inc. (NYSE: CBB). (See MoCA Is Go for 2.0 and Cinci Bell Offers Moto Multi-Room DVR .)

MoCA is the leading option for the US market, being adopted by the cable MSOs, the two major satellite DBS providers, and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), and is projected to be in 97 million US homes, Gelphman claims.

HomePlug just announced its AV2 version, which incorporates MIMO (multiple-input/multiple-output) technology and a new Media Access Control (MAC) layer, and is compatible with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 1901 spec for powerline networking.

"We are really talking about being able to hit every single outlet with lots of HD streams and things like VoIP," says Rob Ranck, president of HomePlug. "One way that I characterize it as a starting point is that we can make sure there really is no more need for any kind of Ethernet cable in the home. HomePlug AV 2 will be at speeds above and beyond 100-Mbit/s Ethernet throughputs."

Ranck stresses HomePlug AV2's expanded role in the world of the connected home where video is delivered to the PC over the Internet and from there to a television set. He even sees HomePlug coexisting with MoCA in the US.

"There had been some uncertainty, but lately, the growth has been very good. Some of the service providers had taken a bit of a wait-and-see attitude," he says. "If you look at what has happened in the US as an indicator -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Verizon, and DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) are moving forward with MoCA rollouts, and many of those guys include HomePlug as part of the solution."

With G.hn chips not yet on the market, the other home networking methods are becoming entrenched, Gelphman says.

"WiFi gets better, HPAV gets better, MoCA 2 comes. G.hn doesn't have any chips yet, which they promised by the end of last year," he says. "By the time G.hn comes out, it will be trailing-edge."

Sigma's Weissman doesn't argue whether MoCA or HomePlug have their places in the market and he still factors in HPNA, the home networking technology AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and other phone companies are using, predominantly over coaxial cable. Sigma, through its CopperGate acquisition, has invested in making the noisy powerline environment better suited for broadband, Weissman says.

Each technology works for a different market and a different medium, he contends. But Weissman still sees G.hn taking hold, based on the ease of deployment and lower cost.

"G.hn has one fundamental thing: It can run across multiple media," he says. "If you go into a home today with MoCA, it is an install by the service provider, which is expensive. If you can be up and running with a whole-home DVR on 99 percent of the homes, and the consumer is able to just plug it in, you can save $300 on an install. There is no way for MoCA to compete with that."

G.hn also has the advantage of being a single-chip technology, which will keep its costs down. MoCA, as Gelphman concedes, is a video-only solution, and if it has to rely on WiFi or HomePlug to handle other services, there are additional costs for additional technologies, Weissman says.

G.hn chips will be out this year, Weissman notes, and products should begin hitting the market in the second quarter of 2011, with much more coming in the second half of next year.

"G.hn will win the market next year, but it will massively impact the market three years from now, because it takes time to deploy technology," Weissman predicts. "There isn't a lack of demand for G.hn. If I had G.hn to ship today, I would be crushing the market today."

Some of that demand comes from PC makers who want to use G.hn chips, he says. G.hn will automatically capture the next generation of current HPNA users, according to Weissman, because by design, there is no HPNA 4. He believes even the cable industry will come over to G.hn because of its cost advantages.

"It will take time," Weissman says.

Gelphman doesn't believe time is on the side of the new standard.

"In the US, we are going to get all of cable, all of satellite, and a growing number of telephone companies," he says of MoCA. "In Europe, there will be other technologies, but even in Europe, there is more coax than you think. A lot of Europeans were waiting to see how Comcast and others did whole-home DVR, and now that they see it, we expect to have more service providers there as well."

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

t.bogataj 12/5/2012 | 4:25:37 PM
re: Home Networking's War of Words Rages On

Forget not that Marvell just acquired DS2, with announcements to release a G.hn chip (this far scheduled for 2011).

MoCA and "raw" HomePlug are at the edge of a decline and only have a few years ahead. No wonder that their proponents are in strong denial.


Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:25:32 PM
re: Home Networking's War of Words Rages On

Thanks, here was our quick take on that deal involving DS2, which had been working through some tough times before filing for the Spanish equivalent to Ch. 11.  Last time I spoke to them, which was after they made the filing, they said they'd still be on track to ship G.hn chip samples by Q3. JB


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