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Roundtable Details

The conference will consist of nine roundtable discussions, each with four to six panelists drawn from representative sectors of the broadband home industry. Each roundtable will include brief presentations by the panelists, with participation by both the panelists and the audience.

Tuesday June 6, 2000

Roundtable 1: Broadband Home Vision

The immediate driving force for the broadband home is connecting multiple PCs to a high-speed Internet service - whether cable modem, DSL or fixed wireless. But the full impact will come as audio and video are delivered and distributed digitally to the whole house.

What's your vision of the broadband home and its evolution? What applications will drive it?
How long will it take to become a reality -- first in a few homes, then in the mass market? What impediments will slow it? When will it be ready for the "non-techie" home?

The number of North American homes capable of receiving broadband service is increasing rapidly. Many networking technologies are already on the market. Yet few homes have first-generation broadband networks -- with multiple PCs connected to a broadband service -- and almost none have full media distribution.

What (if any) new technologies are required to make the broadband home a reality? What components or devices need to exist and come down the cost curve for broadband to be affordable?
Are all required technologies a present reality? Are we waiting for emerging technologies to mature? Do we need new technologies not yet invented?

Roundtable 2: End-to-end Requirements -- General

Many broadband applications connect a network server to an Internet appliance in the home. To operate properly, all of the intermediate networks and systems need to work right. Different applications and services have different requirements. 

What are the issues in interconnecting all these pieces to make a coherent solution for the end user?
What are the implications of various types of applications/services for the requirements of the end-to-end network (including backbone IP networks, broadband access networks and in-home networks)?
    • Speed and bandwidth
    • Quality of service (latency, jitter, packet loss)
    • Reliability
    • Security
Should the specific attributes of access and home networks be hidden so that applications work properly with home appliances without knowing the specifics? Can this be done? How should it be packaged in the home?

Many organizations have developed -- and others are working working to develop -- specifications for interoperable equipment within a particular sector of the Broadband Home industry. There are now specifications for interoperable cable modems (DOCSIS), interoperable ADSL modems (DSL-Lite), interoperable phone-line LANs (HomePNA), interoperable wireless LANs (HomeRF), and many others.

The cable industry is developing specifications for IP telephony over cable. At the same time, application-specific initiatives (such as PowerPlay for multiplayer games) are dealing with very similar issues, especially quality of service.

Which interoperability standards already exist and are appropriate for interoperability among diverse networks? Are additional standards required? What forums are appropriate for these internetworking standards?
To what extent do the requirements of various applications -- such as gaming, telephony, and streaming media -- operlap?
To what extent should the development of standards and specifications be coordinated among the different application initiatives? What coordination is required with service providers (cable operators, LECs) and home networking groups dealing with many of the same issues?

Roundtable 3: New Devices, Appliances and Applications

While PCs are the main Internet devices today, most people believe that other appliances will displace them for many applications.

What are the current and new devices/appliances that will want to "talk" to servers and to one another? Which of these will need to communicate with the outside world via a broadband connection and how will they do it? What technologies are required to enable these devices?
Will PCs fade away or will they become one of the many digital appliances in the home?
As new devices/appliances are introduced, how will they be incorporated into the user environment? Do they need to interact with PC applications containing personal calendars and contact information such as email addresses?

Roundtable 4: Multi-player Games

Multi-player games have specific requirements. Work is now under way to create de facto standards to get QoS up to acceptable levels for gaming on the Internet.

What changes will be required to extend these standards to operate in a diverse broadband environment? Should these standards accommodate broadband now, or should this be left for later consideration?
Can industry specifications developed to provide QoS for IP telephony (such as DOCSIS 1.1 for cable) be used for gaming, or are new specifications required? Can these specifications operate with diverse broadband access networks or are new multi-network specifications required?

Roundtable 5: Home Gateways

While many organizations see the need for home gateways, and many companies are working on products, there is no industry-wide agreement on the functionality contained in the name "gateway".

Is the primary function of a gateway to act as the interface between the broadband "pipe" (such as a cable modem) and the in-home network? Are different flavors of gateway required for each type of broadband access network?
What additional functions belong in the gateway? Should it include NAT services? Routing? Firewall? Proxy services? Caching? A hub for Ethernet, USB, or both?
Should the gateway include Web portal and media server functions?
Who installs and maintains the gateway? Can it be packaged so that it can be installed and maintained by the non-technical user?

Wednesday June 7, 2000

Roundtable 6: What Will "The Real Folks" Do?

The installation of home networks, and the installation and maintenance of LANs, servers and gateways connected to broadband services, can be challenging even for IT professionals. Many believe that the broadband home will only become a widespread reality when the technology becomes invisible and the average user can install and maintain the technology. Others see the need for a support industry to provide installation and ongoing support.

What features and functions are required in all aspects of the technology to make it truly "plug and play" for the average non-technical consumer? How close are current technologies to this goal? What impediments must be removed? Is this a question of technology? Of packaging? Of documentation? Of support? All of the above?
Is it realistic to believe that the customer will be able to install and maintain the enabling systems as many do with consumer electronics, or is it more realistic to see the need for a support industry? If so, where does the support come from? Cable operators? Telephone companies? Home automation installers? What would the customer be willing to pay for such a service?
Where are we on the quest to make these systems easy to learn and easy to use?

Roundtable 7: Streaming media - content and servers

Streaming audio and video - both broadcast and on-demand - are growing rapidly. Broadband will enable these applications to achieve full CD or TV quality.

What requirements do these applications place on the networks and systems between servers and home devices? How does the content get beyond the PC to the audio and home theater systems where they are best heard and seen? What particular characteristics of access and home networks are key to the full realization of this potential?
Can these applications operate satisfactorily over "best efforts" networks or are QoS guarantees required? Will the customer be able to obtain QoS if required within a flat-rate service, or will there be an extra charge?

Everyone has stacks of CDs and shelves of videotapes to store audio and video content. As this content moves to digital format and delivery by IP, it is stored on servers capable of providing streaming content on demand.

Where will these media servers be located? In the home as part of a "gateway"? In the home but separate from the gateway? In the service provider's network? In an ASP?
What are the implications of each for the user experience? For the economics of the service? For the intellectual property issues?

Roundtable 8: Digital television, interactive television and video on demand

Both broadcast television and cable services are moving toward digital TV. The cable industry is about to support retail sales of digital set-top boxes and TVs and other home appliances capable of receiving the full range of cable services. Interactive television (with many different concepts) is once again on the front burner. Full video on demand with VCR-like user controls is being tested by the cable industry and is likely to be broadly deployed over the next few years.

What are the implications for these applications as home networks are deployed? What impact will devices like TiVo and RePlay have on these applications?
How well are vendors succeeding in making these technologies serve the needs of users? What behavioral changes do these system imply for users?
Does a fully-capable digital set-top box sold at retail displace the PC? Or does it supplement the existing PCs in the home? Does it need to connect to existing PCs? Is it another device in the home network, or an autonomous system supported by the service provider?

Roundtable 9: End-to-end Requirements -- Telephony, Videotelephony and Video Conferencing

Telephony places particularly stringent requirements on the end-to-end network. The cable industry is working through CableLabs to define a complete set of specifications including QoS for IP telephony over cable. Many telephone companies - both ILECs and CLECs - are starting to plan IP telephony services over DSL.

In each camp, many people envision a future of "pure IP telephony": calls originate from IP-capable appliances, carry through IP access and backbone networks, and terminate on IP appliances without ever passing through a Class 5 circuit switch. In the ideal world, calls could originate from one type of access network and terminate on another without passing through a circuit switch.

What will be required to enable end-to-end telephony in a diverse broadband environment -- including diverse home networks and broadband homes connected by cable modems, DSL or fixed wireless? Is it possible to extend emerging cable and LEC telephony specifications to encompass diverse environments, or will new specifications and standards be required?
What new standards and technology components are needed to facilitate the growth and success of this application?
Is a new forum required for cross-industry collaboration to realize the common vision of "pure IP"?


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