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Home Networking Goes Global

by Sean Buckley
SOURCE: Telecommunications Online (Norwood,MA)
Thu, March 1. 2007

HPNA V. 3.1 Now A Recognized ITU Standard

When AT&T last summer decided that it would go with HPNA (Home Phone Network Alliance) v.3 as its home networking technology of choice for home networking for its U-Verse service suite over MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance), it added new fuel to the HomePNA flame.

The HomePNA Solution.

"No New Wires" Home Networking

AT&T's decision was based on the fact that it needed a home networking technology that could run over coax and/or copper in both single-family homes and, more importantly, MDUs.

And now the HomePNA standards effort, which has been spearheaded with major contributions from both AT&T and Coppergate, has reached yet another milestone as HPNA v.3 has been officially named an ITU standard for multimedia home networking.

"This moves the whole thing to a higher level of security for the service providers," said Rich Nesin, HomePNA president and VP of marketing for silicon vendor Coppergate Communications.

"Really, the only other home networking standard that is standardized is 802.11, while all of the others are developed by industry groups, and you have to belong to the industry group to get a copy of the specifications."

Running over either existing phone lines or coax, HPNA v.3 can deliver triple play services at speeds of up to 320 Mbps to carry any mixture of ADSL, VDSL, POTS and IPTV simultaneously.

2006 was a banner year for HomePNA, adding 28 new members, including heavyweight vendors such as Scientific Atlanta, JDS Uniphase, and Analog Devices. In addition, HomePNA is working with the DSL Forum to incorporate HomePNA 3.1 technology into is BroadbandHome specifications.

As an update to the existing HomePNA standard, HomePNA plans to launch a compliance program this quarter with a soon to be announced plug fest and certification event to assure interoperability between HomePNA products and HomePNA 3.1 specification compliance.

While he could not divulge any specific names, Nesin expects other operators to follow AT&T's lead on adopting HomePNA.

"This year we're going to see more major service providers rolling out the service," said Nesin. "There's another North American service provider deployed now as well as one in Japan and in Europe doing commercial trials."

A Market Divided

Still, for all the momentum around HPNA and various 'no new wires' approaches for home networking, there's no clear winner yet. According to a research brief from ABI research, while Wi-Fi could potentially have a major role in the home triple play distribution market segment, for now MoCA, HPNA 3.0 and HomePlug will collectively see '45 million total connection on STBs and residential gateways shipped in 2011.'

In the U.S., the line seems to be currently drawn between MoCA and HPNA. AT&T opted for HPNA as it gives it the ability to distribute multimedia services throughout a home or MDU over existing copper or coax, while Verizon is content to utilize MoCA to extend its video and other related products of its FiOS FTTH offering.

"Most large video service providers are evaluating one of these no-new- wires technologies to enable video distribution around the home," says ABI research director Michael Wolf.

"The slow road towards finalization of 802.11n and the lack of comfort among many video service providers about wireless have opened the doors for these alternatives. Verizon's choice of MoCA and AT&T's adoption of HPNA 3.0 show a market today split between various technologies."

Of course, every technology has its own pros and cons. For all of its advertised bandwidth for home networking, MoCA, the home networking medium of choice for Verizon, is limited in its approach because it can only operate over coax, say critics.

Outside of MoCA and HPNA, HomePlug's obvious attraction is its ability to distribute data over existing home powerline wiring; however, HomePlug has yet to be embraced by a large service provider to deliver video services throughout the home.

Still, for all of the momentum around these no new wires approaches, not everyone is convinced. SaskTel, an aggressive IPTV service provider, remains skeptical.

"Today, we're disappointed with the way that technology has rolled out," says Kym Wittal, CTO of SaskTel. "I still think it's a little immature. In our labs, we have not been able to get it to work properly, or the way want.

We're currently in the Cat-5 wiring mode, and we will stay in that mode until these other alternatives become more either standardized and more reliable, but obviously we'll look at these (alternative technologies) as a cost savings measure."

(c) 2007 Telecommunications(R) Magazine Online & Horizon House Publications(R). All rights reserved