Market Insight

Wi-Fi and HomePlug to liaise

November 04, 2010

Merrick Kingston Merrick Kingston Associate Director, Research & Analysis, Digital Media & Video Technology

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Home networking alliances Wi-Fi and HomePlug have formed a liaison to promote joint wireless and powerline networking as well as review their interoperability. Although the cross-marketing and interoperability initiative is likely to be broad, a particular focus of the liaison is the ensure compatibility in smart grid, in-home energy management applications.

Home networking solutions - such as those which rely on already-present coax, powerline, or phoneline cabling - present operators with a means to reach additional TV sets without needing to run fresh cabling through subscriber homes. The ability to construct a cohesive network of devices, rather than having to manage disaggregated, autonomous STBs, is critical to enabling services such as mDVR, media sharing, and all-IP content distribution.

However, the market for home networking technologies has fragmented heavily. As a result a number of home networking alliances have entered into cross-promotion and interoperability partnerships. HomePNA, UPA, and CEPCA are jointly developing the G.hn specification, while MoCA and HomePlug have formed a joint-promotion partnership.

Such buddy-ups are important drivers of home networking adoption across multiple devices, however, to date, the partnerships have focused on the construction of wired networks centered implicitly on bridging STBs and TV sets. These technologies do not address the need to reach wireless connectable devices in the home, and as a result are not currently suited to address 'multiscreen' services across many simultaneous devices.

From this perspective, powerline and Wi-Fi interoperability would constitute a compelling means to build networks which can 'see' all of the wired and wireless devices present across the home. The market opportunity for such an integrated network is substantial - in the US alone, of the 500m installed base of connectable devices in 2010, only 5% of these have been actively addressed by a pay-TV operator. What remains to be seen, then, is whether Wi-Fi and HomePlug collaboration in the area of smart grids blooms to encompass devices and device manufacturers.

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