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The November 16, 2003 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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"Whole Home" Networking over Coax -- An Interview with Entropic

We recently received a couple of interesting press releases about Entropic Communications, a "fabless semiconductor company ... formed to enable broadband multimedia distribution in the home over existing coaxial cable networks." One announced the appointment of a new CEO, the other the closing of a $29 million Series B funding.

We interviewed Patrick Henry, the newly-appointed CEO, and Micheal Libriczi, VP of Marketing, to learn about Entropic's products and plans. As we expected, Entropic is planning a family of products for "whole home" networking with a "data rate north of 100 Mbps."

Entropic is addressing the backbone for whole home networking --> Click for larger picture

Entropic does not believe that networking over coax is the whole solution, but rather that it will provide the backbone networking between floors, connecting all locations that have coax connectors--any location with a TV. Wireless networking will reach the other devices: "Our solution and backbone in general are complementary with wireless for whole-home applications."

It's no surprise that their system is targeted for video networking: "Video is the most demanding application with QoS and high data rate -- it makes our solution for the broadband backbone most compelling. The consumer has to bring it home, plug it in and it works."

Chips for multimedia distribution over coax --> Click for larger pictureEntropic is not trying to solve the whole problem. It will provide the underlying technology--in the form of chips--for companies that want to provide the complete solution: "We have the complete link-layer solution. We provide layers 1 and 2; our customers need to put in the higher layers--including DRM--to make it a good solution so it works when the user plugs it in."

We asked about their confidence in how well their technology will perform in real homes: "We have a very reliable and robust network solution. We've characterized 77 homes in the US, and we have them 'in a suitcase'."

We asked about timing. Entropic will be demoing prototypes at the Western Cable Show in December and at CES in January, perhaps along with business partners. They said they expected to be "starting field trials with MSOs in the next couple of months" and were "a year away from consumer products."

For "no new wires" networking, we've long believed coaxial cable to be more promising than any other existing home wiring, since it is designed and well proven to carry 1 GHz bandwidth around the house without noticeably degrading analog and digital television. We certainly believe that the combination of a 100 Mbps coax-based technology (such as Entropic's) with a comparable wireless technology (such as those described in the previous article) provides a very plausible basis for a complete "whole home" networking solution.

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