When we received an email saying that the Home Gateway Initiative (HGI) was meeting in the Bay area during the same week we planned to be there, we contacted Paulo Pastorino to try to get an invitation to attend the meeting. We had been corresponding with Paulo for more than a year, and were interested in learning more about HGI's status. He told us that the meeting was closed, but agreed to meet with us after the meeting to bring us up to speed.
Founded in late 2004, HGI is an ambitious effort "to boost the market of home communication services to the millions of broadband customers served by its founding members" which include many of the world's largest telcos: Belgacom, BT, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, KPN, TeliaSonera, NTT, Telefonica, and Telecom Italia.
HGI brings both telcos and vendors together to create gateway requirements. On HGI's website, we counted 66 members, a diverse group that now includes 2Wire, Alcatel, DS2, Ericsson, Fastweb, Intellon, Intel, Linksys/Cisco, Microsoft, Netgear, and Philips.
Paolo acts as HGI's Chief Technology Officer & Chief Business Officer. This has proven to be a full-time job, and he is on leave from Telecom Italia.
Paolo told us that HGI has two goals: "to reduce the cost of the box, and to increase the value of the services that can be delivered."
HGI prefers not to develop its own standards, but rather to leverage existing standards from organizations such as the DSL Forum, DLNA, and UPnP. If needed standards do not exist, HGI works with other organizations to frame the requirements and define the standards.
Paolo said HGI issued Release 1.0 ( www.homegatewayinitiative.org/publis/HGI_V1.0.pdf ) last July, and member telcos started using it as the basis for gateway procurements "about three months ago."
HGI expects that its common gateway requirements and specifications will leverage volumes to drive down the cost. Paolo said telcos expect to buy these gateway devices "at volume prices of 50 to 75 Euros--the cost of triple play in Europe"--and expect a three-year lifetime.
Managing Multi-Service Flows
Release 1 says "The aim of HGI is therefore to specify a small range of low cost, high capability Gateways which will provide multi-service communication support for the residential and SOHO environments." A major issue in providing multiple services--which include voice, video and data--through the same gateway device is that different flows have different requirements. Voice and video are time sensitive, while data generally is not.
An important part of Release 1 is devoted to the mechanisms for controlling quality of service (QoS) in flows from the WAN (the operator access network or AN) to the LAN (the home network or HN); flows from the LAN to the WAN; and flows between LAN devices. The following diagram (Figure 6 from Release 1) shows the complex connectivity between the Access Network (on the left) and the Home Network (on the right).
In the diagram, flows 1 and 2 connect between the WAN and the LAN; 3 and 6 are between LAN devices through the gateway; and 4 and 5 are between LAN devices bypassing the gateway. As an example, flow 1 might be a voice call; flow 2 an IPTV stream; flow 3 a video being played back from a DVR; and flow 4 a data file being transferred between PCs. The HGI QoS mechanisms need to handle these flows properly so that operator services such as flows 1 and 2 work as expected, while not interfering with the LAN flows.
Release 1 addresses a specific set of issues, and leaves others (such as interoperability with DLNA and UPnP devices) to later releases. Paolo told us that Release 2 is moving toward publication later this year, and will be the basis for operator tenders in 2008. HGI is now in the process of launching Release 3.