Celeno: A Little Frosty on MoCA
An Israel-based startup called Celeno Communications is pursuing the in-home hi-def video distribution sector with a multimedia WiFi chipset that looks to complement, and eventually compete against, wired platforms such as Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) , HomePlug Powerline Alliance , and Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) .
Celeno has a cable-specific twist, thanks to a non-exclusive integration deal that matches up its CL1300 chip with Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN)'s Puma 5 family of Docsis 3.0 modem silicon. Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) also makes Docsis 3.0 chips, but its internal WiFi efforts make it an unlikely Celeno partner. (See Celeno, TI Team on Wireless HD, TI Flexes Docsis 3.0 Muscle , and Broadcom Breaks Docsis 3.0 Barrier .)
The aim is for Celeno and TI to combine their technologies inside a new breed of wideband-capable set-tops and advanced gateway devices that can convert legacy MPEG-2 streams to IP, and hand off that video traffic wirelessly at speeds in the range of 6 Mbit/s to 10 Mbit/s to IPTV set-tops and other IP-based video displays that are hanging off the home network.
Celeno's approach competes with MoCA, a technology that's already being adopted by Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), Cox Communications Inc. , and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), with many other U.S. service providers expected to fall in line soon. (See Cox, Entropic MoCA Deal Not Exclusive and The Cable Show '09: 5 Takeaways .)
Celeno's MIMO (multiple-input and multiple output) chip tries to get around potential interference issues caused by walls and other impediments by utilizing multiple antennas and triangulating and re-triangulating the signal almost persistently using a technique called "beamforming." It's also using WiFi in the unlicensed 5 GHz spectrum, which has about 10 times the channels available at 2.4 GHz, a move that should avoid saturated environments that can crop up when multiple wireless access points are present in a small area, according to Celeno VP of marketing Lior Weiss.
Weiss views Celeno as a short-term complement and a longer-term competitor to MoCA in the U.S. Nearer-term, he suggests that WiFi could be used to deliver video to the set-top in rooms that don't have coax connections, or to other IP-capable devices, such as gaming consoles, PCs, laptops, and "over-the-top" boxes like the Apple TV.
Although MoCA is likely to dominate the U.S. cable landscape for whole-home DVRs and other forms of video distribution, Weiss thinks Celeno's wireless approach could play a bigger role in Europe and other regions of the world where home-based coax outlets aren't nearly as prevalent. In those cases, Weiss thinks WiFi stands a chance at becoming the short-term, primary, in-home video networking technology. Celeno likewise won't be going after just the cable market. It also intends to pursue telcos and other IPTV service providers.
2009 "is primarily a field trial year" for Celeno's technology, with revenues expected to follow in 2010, Weiss says, noting that the chipmaker has trial activity underway with about four MSOs in Europe and is participating in lab tests and RFPs (requests for proposal) with two or three U.S. MSOs.
Celeno, which has raised more than $30 million and counts Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) as a strategic investor, isn't releasing specific chip unit pricing, but estimates that the cost to the MSO is less than $100 per "link," which includes the transmitter near the gateway and the receiver near the set-top box. Every additional STB that's added to the network would cost about $30, according to Weiss, who likewise forecasts that all of those costs should be chopped in half by sometime next year. If the WiFi technology is embedded in the box (rather than inside an external adapter), then the costs should drop to sub-$15 levels, he says.
Welcome to the club
Delivering video wirelessly around the home isn't exactly a new concept. Belgacom SA (Euronext: BELG), for example, offers IPTV subs an option to send video wirelessly to secondary sets using tech from Ruckus Wireless Inc. . Last February, several North American cable engineers at a CableLabs conference gave high marks to a Ruckus 801.11n-based demo that was capable of handling three HD MPEG-2 video streams, with each running at 20 Mbit/s. Despite dubbing the Ruckus demo the "idea most likely to succeed," those kudos have yet to be translated into domestic MSO deployments. (See Ruckus Rules.)
Although shuttling HD video wirelessly around the home with good, guaranteed quality appears to be of interest to cable operators, Celeno is prudent to target multiple markets, says Jeff Heynen, directing analyst, broadband and video, at Infonetics Research Inc. .
"It's important for them to address both the telco video market and also the cable market," he says. "Without that, the [revenue] potential is probably not going to be there if they go after just one or the other."
Despite claims that video can be sent wirelessly in the home without interference, that potential issue can't be completely ruled out. "That's why operators have been gun-shy about wireless," Heynen says. "You always rely on a fixed connection over a wireless connection."
That said, he doesn't expect to see Celeno's technology playing a primary role, but instead as a component of a broader whole-home video distribution system.
So, will MoCA ever formally adopt a wireless extension? Not at this point. As an organization, MoCA believes that its technology and WiFi can certainly coexist, but it likewise has no plans today to officially incorporate wireless into the coax-based standard, a MoCA spokesman says.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News