Cable Tech

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.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:56:36 PM
re: The New Customer Premises Networks

The new home network is one where all the devices connect to a cloud and in an ad hoc way to one another. No overall network in the home is needed except WiFi to provide the basic connection to the cloud.


schilton 12/5/2012 | 4:56:26 PM
re: The New Customer Premises Networks

I think you need to also mention ethernet over power in the home as potentially even a different layer with complexities.....content (voice, video, data) is coming into the home from various sources with every copper (and wireless) medium being used to distribute.....

comtech3 12/5/2012 | 4:56:22 PM
re: The New Customer Premises Networks

My problem with engineers who were formally trained.......BS,MBA,and PHd degrees, are  folks who work in a "vacuum",they based their postulates under control environment.But we the technicians in the field are the ones that send them back to the drawing boards because in the real world, things don't work that way! It's hard as it is to get coaxial cables in the vast majority of homes,let alone to run new CAT5e/CAT6 twisted pair.Ask AT&T how hard it is for them to install U-Verse in most homes,and they would tell you a litany of woes.For newly homes, electricians are installing data cables that are easily upgradable for new wiring in the future,and who knows,maybe fiber-optic. The vast majority of homes in the USA is 80 years old,and where not built with CATV and highspeed data in mind because back then the "rabbit ears" antenna was king.

In regards to the MOCA  standard for anyroom DVR, it has been my experience that 60% failed because of inside wiring issues that are difficult to correct,given the lack of proper home-run cabling  in most homes, ie, splitters in the attic, crawl space,and basement makes it difficult for communication between the hub and the terminals.Homeplugs are also another problem in instaling them in some homes with dual electricity power supply, 110/220. WiFi is not a viable option in some homes based on their structures,and the new 802Ns don't fare  much better than their G brethrens, despite their stated robustness. I have a Linksys G in my basement,and a Linksys N in my family room,both on separate cable MoDems, yet I get the same throughput, 25Mbps download and 6Mbps upload in my upstairs bedroom! Both are not equidistant.




comtech3 12/5/2012 | 4:56:21 PM
re: The New Customer Premises Networks

So, where did you come up with this assumption that cable techs don't know, or have not been trained in the area you mentioned? Did you do a conprehensive study? For you information, technicians now are smarter than you think,and there are a lot out there who are employed with the cableco who have degrees  and certificates in IT. I 'm talking field technicians.My,company, which will be nameless for now, has a comprehensive training program in all that you've mentioned.And this is why we're involved in Metro Ethernet, and pretty soon, the server side of businesses. Please don't insult the cable techs intelligence by saying Geek Squad may have to be use.The name Geek Squad is just a misnomer.You should the sh...they've done to peoples proper and equipment that we have to be called to fix!

My advice to you, my friend, know your fact before you make erraneous statement like you've done here because they are knowledgeable people who read this column.However, I would wholehearetedly agree with you if you opinion was a about sub-contractors working on behalf of the cablecos, who have received next to nothing in terms of training.

SabrinaChow 12/5/2012 | 4:56:21 PM
re: The New Customer Premises Networks

The basic idea here is that the customer premise is evolving and the field tech of the future needs to have the skills necessary to satisfy the customer.  It’s not just rg6 and qam anymore.  They really need to have understanding in concepts such as ipv4/6, nat, switch, router, cat5/6, moca, wifi, ipad, linux, dlna, upnp, ipad, android – any and all buzzwords regarding the network and the devices attached to it.  I believe MSOs are also aware of this market and they need to get their people trained otherwise the likes of Geeksquad and other firms will fill the void and accumulate the revenue.

More of a side note, but the headend has gone through similar transformations in that it looks more like a data center.  Similar levels of networking knowledge will be required there as well.  Many service providers have been meshing their rf people with ip people in an effort to leverage the existing staff and support the ‘new’ network.  The only constant is change and you have to roll with it or get left behind.

I myself started in the industry as a pole climber running drops for cable tv, installing docsis modems, then eventually made my way to the headend and engineering – never in a vacuum ;o).  I’m in the vendor space now but still a cable guy.  From lugging a ladder, writing code, and co-authoring white papers, I have seen much change.  The cool thing is that we can learn this new stuff; it just takes a bit of effort.

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