12 January 2009

Ethernet AV and G.hn

Only a few weeks after G.hn received consent, it looks like other standards are starting to take into consideration interoperability with G.hn. This story on EE Times on Ethernet AVB (802.1BA - Audio Video Bridging (AVB) Systems) already mentions G.hn/G.9960 as one of the Layer-2 technologies that will be supported by 802.1BA:
Calling Ethernet AVB "Layer 2 technology-agnostic," he said, "This is not all about Ethernet. We've developed this to guarantee time-sensitive services regardless of which Layer 2 (L2) technology is used, as long as the particular L2 net implements the AVB interfaces."

In sum, the Ethernet AVB task group hopes to bring common traffic-shaping and reservation protocol features into both WiFi (i.e. 802.11e) and non-802.11 devices (such as Multimedia over Coax Alliance -- MoCA, and ITU-T G.9960) expected to be used in multiple standards-based home networks.

Chano Gomez

11 January 2009

G.hn update on EDN

I just wrote a brief update on G.hn at the EDN blog "How we see CE".

Chano Gomez

21 December 2008

G.hn consent

Recommendation G.hn (now also known as G.9960) received consent on Dec 12th 2008. Below you can find links to stories about this important milestone:

  • ITU-T's press release: New global standard for fully networked home

  • “There’s a clear market need for a unified networking approach,” said Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau. “With G.hn, every wire in every home around the world can become part of a home entertainment network. This will enable seamless communication between computers, HDTVs and telephones over existing wires. I expect that this exciting new technology will also foster innovations such as energy efficient smart appliances, home automation and telemedicine devices.”

  • HomeGrid Forum's press release: ITU-T G.hn Specification Achieves Key Milestone with Successful Consent at Geneva ITU-T Meeting

  • “We applaud ITU’s success in achieving this major milestone,” said Matthew Theall, president of HomeGrid Forum. “This achievement allows chipset providers to begin design of silicon which will be used to create new products that will form the foundation for next-generation whole-home networking. HomeGrid Forum continues to be committed to driving the rapid and broad adoption of G.hn technology in the consumer electronics, PC, and service provider markets.”

  • EE Times's article by Rick Merritt: G.hn hits milestone toward unified home nets; ITU approves physical layer spec, sparking chip work

  • The ITU released a key part of its pending G.hn standard. The spec aims to create unified home networking chips able drive throughput rates ranging from 50 to more than 700 Mbits/second over coax, phone or power lines.

    The ITU-T G.9960 specification issued Friday (Dec. 12) defines a physical layer needed to start development of such chips. A companion spec for a media access controller that could be implemented in firmware is expected to be complete as early as September 2009.

  • Giga Om's article: Coming Soon: Ultrafast Home Networks For Everyone

  • A fast new home networking standard was ratified on Friday by the ITU. With the unsexy name G.hn and some quibbles about what the consumer friendly marketing name will be (HomeGrid backed by Intel and Texas Instruments seems likely), writing a headline is hard. But think of this as the five things you need to know about G.hn: [...]

A number of vendors also expressed their support for the new G.hn standard:

21 October 2008

Some Links to Stories about G.hn

We'd like this blog to be a tool that aggregates information about ITU-T G.hn from across the web. Below you can find links to some of the stories about G.hn and/or Homegrid Forum published during the last months:
"If successful, the HomeGrid/G.hn effort could encourage consumer electronics and set-top box makers to sprinkle home network links generously across their product lines."
“While it is still early, ABI Research sees promise in the efforts by ITU G.hn,” says Wolf. “Ultimately, if G.hn sees integration into carrier devices by 2010, we expect that in 2013 some 42 million G.hn-compliant nodes will ship into the market, in devices such as set-top boxes, residential gateways and other service provider CPE hardware.”

There's clearly an unfilled need for a unified approach to existing wiring. Such an approach would permit service providers to build a single chipset into every device and use the appropriate wiring suitable to the particular situation in the home. It would eliminate the confusion which almost certainly inhibits most consumers from adopting these technologies.

A unified approach is not as far-fetched as it might seem. All of the current "existing wiring" technologies are based on similar underlying techniques. Nearly all use OFDM (as does Wi-Fi). They employ similar techniques for security and for sharing the available bandwidth among many users. That's what led to G.hn.

G.hn’s goal is to simplify existing-wire home networking. No, G.hn will not replace wireless standards such as Wi-Fi (nobody wants to trade their wireless laptop connection for a wire). It will compliment the wireless technologies. We expect the home of the future to have both.

Considering all the home networking specifications and standards in the world, it’s good to see such a broad section of participants converging on a single standard for existing wire home networking the way it converged on WiFi for wireless.

13 October 2008

Why do we need a unified standard at all?

One of the most common questions that I hear when I talk about what G.hn and HomeGrid Forum are trying to do is "Why do we need a unified standard at all? What is the problem with having a standard that works over powerlines, another that works over phone lines, and so on?".

My response is always the same: even if each of the existing "medium-specific" standards and industry specification available today do a good job at solving specific problems for specific markets, many players in the industry would benefit enormously from having a single unified standard that can work over different physical media.

Although 802.11 wireless technology is the most popular choice for consumers that simply need to share a broadband connection, the vast majority of IPTV service providers are using wired networks (powerline, phonelines or coaxial cable) as a home networking solution for SD and HD video delivery. The reason is that wired solutions in general provide better performance, reliability and security than wireless options.

The problem today is that each market has chosen a different solution: while European IPTV service providers in general are using powerline-based solutions (because coaxial and phoneline connections are scarce in European homes), North American service providers are mostly using a variety of coaxial and phoneline solutions for home networking. Both markets are very attractive, so silicon vendors are interested in addressing both without having to develop different products for each market.

At the same time, equipment manufacturers (vendors of Set-Top-Boxes and Residential Gateways) that want to sell in all these markets today are being forced to develop three or more versions of their products, each one with a different physical interface. This represents a huge problem in terms of extra development cost, more complex product planning and supply forecast, etc.

Even Service Providers that may have standardized on a single physical medium can benefit from deploying a technology that can work well in any media. If a service provider normally uses powerlines, it can still benefit from using a coaxial connection if one is available in a specific location. Also, if a service provider normally uses coaxial connections, it can use powerlines to provide solutions to those customers that don't have a suitable coaxial cable in one of the rooms where they want to install their TV.

Having a unified standard will increase competition and decrease costs:
  • Silicon vendors can address two or three markets different simultaneously, with a single chip. NRE costs are reduced, unit volume is increased and per-unit cost is reduced thanks to economies of scale.
  • Silicon vendors that used to supply to different, isolated markets (to the powerline market only, or to the phoneline market only) will now compete with each other for the single unified powerline+phoneline+coaxial market, accelerating innovation and driving prices further down.
Once we take all these factors into account, it's clear why having a unified standard across different physical media is the best way to ensure that the wired home networking industry can develop its true potential.

Chano Gomez

Coop's home networking challenges...

To lead things off, here's one of the home networking issues I face personally. Our home is a 35 year old condo that acts as a Faraday Cage; plus, I can see well over a dozen access points at any given time, so wireless connectivity is less than perfect--high bit-error/packet-error rates make high-quality streaming video over Wi-Fi next to impossible, although our ability to stream audio is consistently pretty good. Retrofitting our place for whole-home Ethernet would be tough--doing it right would cost a whole lot of money (due to the need to either rip up flooring or route cables through common areas, which our condo board is horribly restrictive about), and doing it wrong would look brutal.

Phone line really isn't an option for us, as the place was built with only 3 jacks, meaning we don't have connectivity where we want it. Coax also doesn't work, as we only have 2 coax drops. Power line would be ideal, but the array of sometimes incompatible options has been challenging to comprehend, even for a geek like me. So, my current approach to power line has been to not make a decision at all, by not buying any of the flavors. I've recently installed a really cool DLNA network-attached storage device from Promise Technology, which is making me a little more antsy about getting going on whole-home video streaming. I'm testing a cool little IPTV set-top box from Verismo, and I'm also modding my original Xbox this weekend to run XBMC, which will likely lend further motivation to figuring out my streaming dilemma. For now, some flavor of power line is probably going to be the way to go, but I'm looking forward to a next-gen approach which will provide me the flexibility I need to plug in anywhere in the house, over any existing wire, and get things connected.

Needless to say, I'm eagerly awaiting G.hn.

12 October 2008

The Obligatory First Post

A number of HomeGrid members have been talking about a forum for discussion of next generation home networking issues, particularly relating to the ITU-T's G.hn spec. The goal of this blog is to be broad and inclusive--to that end, anyone can comment. In the interest of stimulating discussion, I've chosen to use the Intense Debate commenting platform. We'd like to get folks talking, debating, even arguing, about topics and issues of concern for the next gen home network, so away we go...