Networked home

Gearing Up for the GigaHome

Now that cable operators, telcos and fiber providers are increasingly bringing gigabit speeds to broadband subscribers, can the GigaHome be all that far behind?

Not if such major broadband providers as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Google Fiber Inc. , Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and Charter Communications Inc. have their way. All six providers are either introducing or planning to introduce powerful new wireless routers to their subscribers' homes in the coming year as they either launch or expand gigabit and near-gigabit services to their regions.

Similarly, equipment providers are working on churning out home networking gear for providers that can support much higher household connectivity speeds. For example, both Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) are contributing code to the cable industry's new open source RDK-B software stack for next-generation broadband equipment in the home. At the same time, such other key vendors as chipmaker Celeno Communications and WiFi specialist AirTies are developing support for speedier home networks. (See Global Capacity Signals App Aspirations.).

There's a lot of activity on the tech standards front as well. For instance, the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) is now winding up field trials showing that its current MoCA 2.0 spec can support net throughput of more than 400 Mbit/s in 90% of cabled homes. Plus, MoCA engineers are reportedly working on new standards that could enable in-home net throughput as high as 2.5 Gbit/s.

Certainly, such an acceleration of in-home networking speeds would come none too soon for many broadband users. While data traffic bottlenecks have primarily taken place in the ISP access network for many years, that situation is swiftly changing these days. With the growing overhaul of last-mile connections, the traffic bottleneck is increasingly shifting from outside the home to inside it.

That's especially true with the rapid proliferation of web-enabled devices in more and more households. As consumers have scooped up more smart TVs, streaming media devices, video-game consoles, tablets, smartphones and the like, the bandwidth demands on the home network have been multiplying and will continue to do so. To cite one of the most bullish forecasts, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) projects that the number of Internet-connected devices per home for a family of four will skyrocket to 50 by 2022, up from about ten Internet-connected devices per home in 2013.

Of course, the growing smart home movement will only place even greater strains on the already overburdened home network. As such major players as Comcast, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) all push more into the smart home space with smart thermostats, connected door locks, wireless security cameras, electronic sprinkler controllers and the like, the in-home network will need to keep getting faster and faster just to keep up.

Besides constantly getting faster as gigabit services and web-enabled devices continue to spread, the budding GigaHome network will also have to keep getting better. WiFi dead spots in the home, now the bane of online existence for many broadband users, will become increasingly less tolerable. So will dropped connections, intermittent service, weak links and traffic slowdowns. More and more consumers will expect their home networks to work seamlessly and will hold their broadband providers accountable if they don't.

So the long-awaited GigaHome may soon be here. But given the way things are going in the broadband space, that may not be enough. In fact, it may not be much longer before we start looking for the TeraHome to take its place.

This blog is sponsored by Huawei.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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