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Weighing the Options

Telecommunications Online
10-26-07, by Sean Buckley

When AT&T opted to go with HPNA (Home Phone Network Alliance) v.3 as its home networking technology of choice, the decision was predicated on the fact that the service provider needed a solution that could run over both copper and coax in both a single-family or apartment building.

That said, David Deas, vice president of networks and services at AT&T Laboratories, still won�t rule anything out when it comes to the future of home networking.

�Home networking is still a wide open wild west, with powerline, wireless, MoCA, HPNA, and I am sure someone will devise something else tomorrow,� Deas said.

And while the �no new wires� approach is certainly the mode large service providers like AT&T want to take to deliver their triple play of data, voice, and, more importantly, IP-based video, there�s no clear winner yet in this new arms race.

A new study brief from ABI research points out that, 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 connections on STBs and residential gateways shipped in 2011.�

�Most large video service providers are evaluating one of these no-new- wires technologies to enable video distribution around the home,� said 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 is limited in its approach because it can only operate over coax. Meanwhile, HPNA v.3 has gained momentum with AT&T and others due to its ability to run over both coax and twisted pair, but the technology has frequency interference issues with VDSL. Finally, 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 on board. SaskTel, one of the most aggressive IPTV players that most recently launched HDTV over IPTV, is still skeptical on the ability of these technologies to support triple play services in the home properly.

�Today, we�re disappointed with the way that technology has rolled out,� said Kym Wittal, SaskTel CTO. �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 we want. We�re currently in the Cat-5 wiring mode, and we will stay in that mode until these other alternatives become standardized and more reliable, but obviously we�ll look at these [alternative technologies] as a cost savings measure.�