In This Issue
Your Voice -
News about People and Companies Influencing The Broadband Home
Aneesh Chopra has been named the first CTO for the U.S. by President Obama. Chopra is currently Virginia’s secretary of technology and Virginia's CTO. Chopra's formal title will be Associate Director for Technology under the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. ( www.ostp.gov )
David French has been named CEO of Quantenna Communications, a developer of silicon for high-speed, wireless high definition (HD) video home networking. Most recently, French was president and CEO of Cirrus Logic. ( www.quantenna.com )
Paolo Pastorino is now Business Development and Marketing Manager at Loquendo. He was previously CTO of the Home Gateway Initiative. ( www.loquendo.com )
Carphone Warehouse Group's wholly owned subsidiary Talk Talk is acquiring the U.K. assets of Italian carrier Tiscali for £236 million. As a result, Carphone Warehouse will become the U.K.'s second-largest broadband service provider (behind BT) and its largest residential broadband provider. ( www.cpwplc.com ) ( www.talktalk.co.uk ) ( www.tiscali.co.uk )
Ikanos Communications has agreed to purchase the Broadband Access product line from Conexant Systems for $54 million in cash and the assumption of certain liabilities. In connection with this transaction, Tallwood Venture Capital has agreed to purchase 24 million shares of Ikanos common stock for $42 million. Upon completion of the transactions, Tallwood will own approximately 45 percent of Ikanos outstanding shares. ( www.ikanos.com ) ( www.conexant.com ) ( www.tallwoodvc.com )
Beceem Communications, a WiMax chip company, has raised a $20 million funding round. ( www.beceem.com )
Stoke, a broadband gateway provider for wireless carriers, has raised $15 million from a mix of returning backers and new investors. ( www.stoke.com )
ABC Enterprises, a Walt Disney Co. unit, has joined with NBC Universal, owned by General Electric and Vivendi, and the News Corporation, owner of Fox, and Providence Equity Partners as a joint venture partner and equity owner of online video aggregator Hulu. CBS is the only major broadcast network that has not participated in the joint venture. ( abc.go.com ) ( www.nbcuni.com ) ( www.fox.com ) ( www.provequity.com ) ( www.hulu.com ) ( www.cbs.com )
Adobe Systems announced the extension of its Flash Platform to connected digital home devices with an optimized implementation of Flash technology that delivers high definition (HD) video and rich applications to Internet-connected televisions, set-top boxes, Blu-ray players and other devices in the digital living room. Major System-on-Chips (SoC) vendors, OEMs, cable operators and content providers including Atlantic Records, Broadcom, Comcast, Disney Interactive Media Group, Intel, Netflix, STMicroelectronics, The New York Times Company, NXP Semiconductors and Sigma Designs announced support for the optimized Flash technology. The first devices and SoC platforms with support for the technology are expected to ship in the second half of 2009.( www.adobe.com )
Clearwire announced plans to commercially launch the CLEAR branded mobile WiMAX service in Atlanta this June; in Las Vegas this summer; and in Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas/Fort Worth later this year. ( www.clearwire.com )
Novatel Wireless has had both Verizon Wireless and Sprint adopt their MiFi 2200 Personal Hotspot to provide their customers a portable Wi-Fi hotspot. The unit is battery powered and combines a 3G wireless modem with the capability to support multiple simultaneous WiFi connections, allowing customers to share their 3G connection with up to 5 users. ( www.novatelwireless.com ) ( www.verizonwireless.com ) ( www.sprint.com )
Standards & Alliances
Technology companies from the CE, PC, semiconductor and handheld industries have formed the Wireless Gigabit Alliance (WiGig). Board Members include Atheros, Broadcom, Dell, Intel, LG Electronics, Marvell, MediaTek, Microsoft, NEC, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung, and Wilocity. The group's mission is "to unify the next generation of wireless products by encouraging the adoption and widespread use of 60 GHz wireless technology worldwide." The WiGig "standard" is intended to transmit data within a single room at approximately 6 gigabits per second, an appropriate speed for delivering high-definition video between computers and TV set-top boxes. Other wireless technology contenders for this application include Wireless HD, Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDi) and ultra wideband Wireless USB. ( www.wigig.org ) ( www.whdi.org ) ( www.wirelesshd.org ) ( www.whdi.org ) ( www.usb.org/developers/wusb )
Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations you might have missed. This month's briefs focus on why Cablevision 101 is definitely not for beginners; rural telehealth networks; and why keeping up with smart grid projects must be a full time job.
University courses labeled 101 are usually the introduction to a subject, but for Cablevision 101 has an entirely different meaning. 101 is the advertised speed in Mbps for Cablevision's new DOCSIS 3.0 enabled Optimum Online Ultra. The service provides 101 Mbps downstream and 15 up, at a price of $99.95 a month. ( www.cablevision.com )
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced approval of funding under its Rural Health Care Pilot Program (RHCPP) for the build-out of five broadband telehealth networks that will link hospitals regionally in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Funding was also approved for the design of a telehealth project in Alaska. Collectively, these six projects are eligible to receive $46 million in reimbursement for the engineering and construction of their regional telehealth networks. ( www.fcc.gov )
U.S. Smart Grid Roadmaps and Standards
The U.S. news has been full of initiatives to create roadmaps and standards for Smart Grid interoperability. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are developing an "interim roadmap" intended to be a major step toward harmonizing interoperability standards for the Smart Grid. The roadmap effort is part of a three-phase NIST Smart Grid program that also includes establishing an ongoing public-private partnership and developing a certification and accreditation process for the technology. ( www.epri.com ) ( www.nist.gov )
There are a host of organizations involved with various aspects of Smart Grid, including The GridWise Architecture Council, which has membership from leading technology and utility firms; the IEEE, which has started Smart Grid Interoperability Standards Project P2030; the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA); and NOSI (Nonprofit Open Source Initiative). The bottom line is there's lots going on -- how these efforts are related and come together (or don't) looks like a major research project! ( www.gridwiseac.org ) ( www.ieee.org ) ( www.nema.org )
G.hn enthusiasts believe it will become the dominant home networking standard over existing wiring, displacing the multiplicity of technologies which now compete with -- and interfere with -- each other. We first wrote about G.hn more than a year ago in The Everywire Standard: G.hn and HomeGrid Forum.
But there are many G.hn skeptics. Not surprisingly, these include the trade organizations providing the leading home networking technologies over existing wiring--MoCA for coax and HomePlug for powerline--and most of their members. Over the past two months, we've discussed G.hn with many of these skeptics.
Before we go into the details, here's a summary of their positions:
Most companies affiliated with MoCA and HomePlug say they would welcome a unifying standard, but could support G.hn only if it supported back-compatibility and provided a major step forward in performance. Some of them are working actively within G.hn trying to effect changes before the standard is completed this year. Others think G.hn is irrelevant and are focusing their attention on their own next-generation standards.
HomePlug: G.hn is Fracturing the Industry
The HomePlug Powerline Alliance (HomePlug) is focused on powerline networking, largely for retail markets. Over the past few years, many service providers have deployed HomePlug -- mostly for high-speed data networking in North America, and for IPTV in Europe and Asia.
To better understand HomePlug's positions on G.hn, we recently met or talked on the phone with:
The powerline networking industry has long suffered from having three mutually-incompatible standards (see Powerline Networking--War of the Standards). It has spent more than four years hammering out the IEEE P1901 standard, now moving toward publication. HomePlug views G.hn as yet another standard that is incompatible with the installed base of HomePlug devices--and with P1901. It still hopes there's time to remedy this before the standard is locked in.
Intellon: Make HomePlug AV "the bridge to drive G.hn success"
We visited Intellon's Orlando headquarters to meet with Charlie Harris and Rick Furtney. Intellon is the primary provider of HomePlug semiconductors, and until now the only provider of HomePlug AV chips. Some of Intellon's chips go into devices sold at retail, others into devices sold to service providers. They showed us a chart listing 48 service providers currently deploying Intellon-based HomePlug products for data and video networking. More than two-thirds of Intellon's current revenue comes from these service provider products; more than half of their revenue comes from Europe.
Charlie and Rick stressed that Intellon is strongly in favor of industry standards, especially those coming from formal standards development organizations (SDOs). Intellon created the baseline technology for HomePlug 1.0, and is a major technology contributor to HomePlug AV, IEEE P1901, and ITU-T G.hn. While they feel the promise of G.hn is very positive and worthy of support, they say the reality is not fulfilling the promise: "The current G.hn spec is likely to prolong rather than resolve the standards uncertainty in powerline and coax wireline communications." They think that "as service providers and other customers come to recognize the realities inherent in the spec, support for G.hn will decline."
They pointed out that HomePlug AV has a lot of momentum. The day we visited Orlando, Gigle Semiconductor announced that two of its chips had just achieved HomePlug AV certification, providing an alternate AV chip supplier for the first time. Charlie expects there will be six AV chip suppliers by the end of 2009, providing a robust ecosystem. HomePlug is now working on AV2, which will provide a substantial performance improvement over AV.
Intellon believes the US drive to "smart energy" will create a significant new market opportunity for HomePlug. Energy companies need a link between the electric meter (typically outside the house) and devices inside the house. While some companies are looking for wireless solutions to play this role, others think powerline networking would be a better choice for robust communications. Nine major energy companies are already members of HomePlug, and are working toward "an interoperable HPAV-lite for smart energy" based on IEEE P1901. This will complement HomePlug's data and video networking markets.
Intellon thinks "G.hn is several years away from real volume deployments" and expects there will be a large installed base of HomePlug AV products before any volume delivery of products based on G.hn. If G.hn is a competing standard with little or no performance improvement, it will have to take market share away from HomePlug AV - and Intellon says "There is no history of an SDO specification replacing a successful incumbent technology with same performance technology."
They say "G.hn does not coexist or interoperate with HomePlug AV" which poses a significant deployment problem for both existing and new customers. The next-generation AV2 product will have a significant performance advantage over G.hn, is fully interoperable with the current AV product, and will have at least six silicon providers. For the many service providers who have already deployed HomePlug, AV2 should provide a much better choice than G.hn as now defined.
Intellon hopes that G.hn will redress these issues before the standard is finalized later this year, and is actively participating in the G.hn process with the hope of doing so. They say that if G.hn were modified to be interoperable, HomePlug AV could provide "the bridge to drive G.hn success."
Arkados: "Bring G.hn in line with HomePlug AV and P1901"
We've met with Oleg Logvinov, CEO of Arkados, many times over the past decade, and recently discussed G.hn with him on the phone. Arkados supplies HomePlug 1.0 silicon, and last year announced a deal with STMicroelectronics to develop and manufacture a HomePlug AV System-on-Chip (SoC) including support for IEEE P1901. Oleg has been involved with HomePlug from the beginning, served for several years as President, and is now Chief Strategy Officer.
Oleg has long advocated unified standards for powerline networking, and has been an active participant in HomePlug, P1901 and G.hn. Like Charlie Harris, he's disappointed that G.hn's reality falls short of its promise. In our phone call, he said "When service providers turn their attention to what was done in the G.hn group, they’ll see it was a short-sighted move. You have technology that’s basically 90% HP AV, with artificial changes making it inferior to HP AV." He thinks service providers should "influence the G.hn group to revisit the recommendation to bring it in line with HomePlug AV and P1901 -- to lay the foundation for success of technology, not failure."
HomePlug supporters disagree with G.hn claims to outperform HomePlug AV. Oleg explained the disparity this way: "HomePlug AV runs in 2 to 30 MHz. G.hn spans 2 to 30, and claims the use of frequencies above 30. The performance of AV and G.hn in 2 to 30 is pretty similar – G.hn will be somewhat poorer because it’s not optimized for powerline. The ability to transmit above 30 MHz is questionable in powerline due to the power spectrum density profile specified by the regulatory bodies -- have to transmit at lower power. There’s not much benefit for the wider frequency band at this point."
Oleg hopes there is time to change G.hn to bring it into conformance with HomePlug and P1901. He said there are two primary technical issues: the forward error correction (FEC) technique, and the preamble. G.hn is using a different FEC technique than the one used in HomePlug, and a different format for the preamble. G.hn should change these to conform with HomePlug AV/P1901, so HomePlug AV and G.hn devices would avoid interfering with each other, and ideally would be able to work together.
If G.hn doesn't make these changes, Oleg thinks it will find it hard to compete with HomePlug AV: "It doesn’t outperform HP AV, why would people be attracted to a technology that is so late to the market and is not interoperable with millions of already deployed devices?"
MoCA: G.hn is Irrelevant
The Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) was created to serve the needs of video service providers in markets where coaxial cable is widely deployed for TV distribution in the home - primarily markets with high penetration of cable-based subscription video, such as North America.
To better understand MoCA's position on G.hn, we recently met or talked on the phone with:
The original MoCA 1.0 operated at a throughput of about 100 Mbps; the current MoCA 1.1 extends throughput to 175 Mbps. MoCA is now developing the specs for MoCA 2, which will up the speed to 400 Mbps with an extension to 800 Mbps.
Until recently, only Entropic could provide chips certified for MoCA (both 1.0 and 1.1). At CES 2009, Broadcom announced the addition of MoCA to its latest SoC chips for set top boxes, and recently obtained MoCA 1.0 certification for those chips.
MoCA has been quite vocal in its objections to G.hn. They say that ITU-T doesn't include most providers of television services in the US, that the lack of backward compatibility forces existing vendors and service providers to "start from scratch", and that G.hn's "claim of working over three very different mediums" is "dubious and still to be proven".
MoCA representatives point out that nearly all US video service providers -- both satellite providers, most cable operators, and Verizon -- have committed to MoCA (AT&T is the exception). Verizon and the satellite companies have already deployed MoCA in substantial volumes.
The cable industry is starting to deploy "multi-room DVR." Cable equipment manufacturers include MoCA in their latest set top boxes. Major cable operators have started deployment and are ramping up quickly.
By the time G.hn devices are available in volume, these service providers will be supporting tens of millions of homes with MoCA 1.1. When they need higher performance, they will almost certainly move to MoCA 2.0, which is backward compatible with MoCA 1.1 and much faster. Since G.hn is not backward compatible, and is unlikely to perform any better than MoCA 2.0 in the real world, MoCA thinks the US service providers will "have no interest in G.hn."
Nevertheless, some MoCA members would like to see a unified networking standard. G.hn is sufficiently similar to MoCA that it would not be hard to make it fully compatible. Last year, they pushed for interoperability between G.hn and MoCA, and lost. Now they think G.hn is largely irrelevant for coax networking in North America.
For More Information
We have written about home networking since the first issue of this newsletter more than nine years ago. Our Topical Index: Home Networking provides access to our articles on all aspects of home networking, organized by technology.
"Fibre to the Cabinet" In Yorkshire
Jim Farmery of Yorkshire Forward (the regional development agency charged with improving the Yorkshire & Humber economy) wrote "In the UK government's annual budget statement yesterday we announced a £100m investment in fibre to the cabinet in South Yorkshire (covering 1m people). The business model is based on the public sector being anchor tenants of an open access network managed by Thales and owned by the public sector partners. I’ve attached the release but we are keen to let as wide an audience as possible know this is happening as we want to invite businesses to come and test new stuff on our network!"
A further email clarified the relationships between the organizations: "Yorkshire Forward are the provider of state government funding and have a contract with Digital Region, a new company with shareholders made up of the local city and town councils – Rotherham, Doncaster, Sheffield and Barnsley.
Thales are a French technology company who are building the network and managing it on behalf of Digital Region. They have a time bound contract to build the network to our specification and manage capacity on it – selling to both public sector customers and also private sector service providers.
This way the public sector spending has been brought to bear in order to get a network built that can then be made available on an open access basis" to "service providers selling services to households and businesses."
Jim is "responsible for the project delivering" -- his team manages "the contract with the new company formed to deliver this."
He said "Work begins this month and the first customers should be connected early 2010." If anyone wants "to get involved and use our 1m households and businesses as a test bed to get in touch – they can email me and we’ll take it from there."
Third-Party Apps in Tru2way
David Beckemeyer, an entrepreneur and consultant who was previously CTO at EarthLink, wrote that he liked our coverage of tru2way and asked: "What's the status of opening the platform to third-party apps? I consider the mobile phone space before iPhone and after as a model. Is there an 'App Store' equivalent being considered by the Cablecos?"
We replied: "Supporting third party apps is clearly lower priority than getting core apps (guide, VOD) and video-content-related apps (Showtime, STARZ, HSN, TWC, etc) running.
We're all for third-party apps and share your view of the iPhone model. We wrote about opening up tru2way for third-party apps at some length in the Sept. 2008 issue of Broadband Library".
Sandy added "At the recent Cable conference, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said they are thinking about the equivalent of an apps store. Don't remember if it was in his talk onstage, or his comments at the CableLabs booth re Starz Enteract. That's a good sign."
Sixth Annual Healthcare Unbound Conference & Exhibition
With the application of information technology to the Healthcare sector being a current hot topic, you may be interested in attending the Sixth Annual Healthcare Unbound Conference. It takes place in Seattle, WA at the Seattle Airport Marriott on June 22-23, 2009. The program will have a strong focus on the use of remote monitoring / home telehealth / e-health technologies for wellness promotion and disease management. It will provide a good opportunity to network with executives and clinicians from across the US and abroad. We hope to see you there. ( www.tcbi.org )
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