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There is a compelling cut-throat


There is a compelling cut-throat

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									Home Networking

The battle for the
digital home
Service providers that can offer an intuitive user
interface, combined with a compelling experience,
will be in prime position to own the digital consumer
of the future, argues Joe O'Halloran

           here is a compelling cut-throat       meeting demand. They already have                The co-axial cable is suitable for this use,
           battle taking place to capture        connections into the living room that are        as well as voice and data. Existing telco
           cosumers' hearts, minds and wal-      suitable for delivering a wide range of high     cabling or wireless networks are well
lets between the cable, satellite and telco      quality content.                                 suited for use with high-speed broadband
suppliers in the home entertainment market.         Ray Bennett, broadband, cable and satellite   connections but are not suitable for high
The batle was once for control of living         (BC&S) industry segment marketing manager        quality video delivery and will have
rooms but the stakes are now a lot higher -      at Amdocs, explains: “If anyone is going to      to be upgraded. However, as the market
the pot at the end of this game is the lucra-    own the subscriber it is going to be the         develops and service providers begin
tive amounts of additional revenue that can      incumbent broadband provider. Whoever            to offer home networking to customers
be gleaned from control of the whole home.       provides the most reliable broadband             who do not have any form of existing
   Whereas in the past the digital home          connections to the consumer is going to win      infrastructure, the focus will switch
concept was highly speculative, and suffered     most of the consumer's allegiance because        to the range of services and value-adds
from a lot of ultimately unfulfilled vendor      what has been so clearly demonstrated over       that the service provider can offer.”
hype, these days the digital home (some          the last few years is that consumers require        Essentially this means that satellite, telco
prefer to call it the 'enabled home') is now     a bundle that has broadband. People said         and cable operators will be on a far more
an affordable reality for both suppliers and     that if there wasn't broadband they weren't
consumers.                                       going to order it. BSkyB has understood this
   But what form is the digital home concept     concept when it was 'giving away'
going to take? And what will be the likely       broadband connections - it understood that if
popular devices around which home                it could get people hooked on the broadband
networks will be based? Will audio devices,      pipe, then it could own them.”
TVs and games machines really evolve into           Cable and satellite firms also have a very
de facto home gateways? Which companies          strong grip on the premium content that
are best placed to own the consumer and          people will pay to have delivered to various
not just the living room?                        devices throughout the home. This means
                                                 that they already have in place an
The impact of service bundling                   infrastructure from which they are, in some
Unlike a few years back, the need for a          cases at least, generating money. Even
networked digital home is more realistic.        though they are rolling out broadband
The digital home concept now taps into           connections extremely quickly, telcos
a cultural shift that has led to increasing      not only face a competitive problem,
consumption of content, such as music,           they are also (in the majority of cases)
photographs, and video, on a variety of          connecting their services direct to a PC
different consumer electronic devices. The       or wireless router directly, rather than a
necessary fundamental PC, video and              television, as the mainstream audience
networking technologies are now more             will expect.
affordable and the ability to have                  There are also some other technical
connectivity in the home is more desirable,      issues, says Nick Fielibert, VP, CTO
and much more mainstream. Service                and chief architect at Scientific Atlanta
providers will be able to extract potentially    Europe and Asia, “When it comes to
lucrative value added services by meeting        distributing content within the home,
consumer desire.                                 the cable or satellite operators that have
   Mostly because of their longer track record   already implemented multi-room products
in the entertainment services delivery arena,    and solutions have an advantage because
cable and satellite operators appear currently   high quality video delivery places the most
to have the upper hand against the telcos in     stringent demands on the home network.

                                                                                                                    page thirty nine
                                                    Home Networking                  Supplement           
                                                                                                                   Home Networking

equal footing, differentiated only                  dedicated MediaCentres and TV-based            development. “If you want to network
by the quality of content, service                  devices, speaks volumes as to whether the      your home today from a computer point
and user experience they provide.                   company would agree that one single device     of view it is easy; if you want to run TV
This is great news for consumers, as they           will dominate. “I don't think that there will be
                                                                                                   around the home with any quality of
can expect to get from telcos exactly what          any one winner in the home. A lot of people    service to multiple clients then the tech-
they could receive from the other two.              try to say which will be the real centre of thenology challenges are great,” says Pace’s
    The existing strategy for cable and satellite   home and I do think it depends on the          Sharp. “The holy grail would be able to do
providers, and surely the future for telcos,        consumer; there are as many different          that wirelessly but in trying to push video
has been to offer customers bundles of              scenarios as there are consumers,” says        content around - and especially HD
services. But these bundles also need to            Elena Branet, senior marketing manager,        content - there are some limitations in
be secure. Ian Sharp, president of Pace             EMEA, for the Microsoft TV division. “It's our that currently.”
EMEA & APAC comments: “What is                       “A lot of people                                 The future home network, however,
interesting is that while cable and satellite                                                      means more than an infrastructure that
companies have advantages that will likely           try to say which will shifts content around the home; it is one
play for the next few years, what the telcos         be the real centre                            where the user has the capability of
can bring is the more Internet-based content         of the home, but it home automation. Tunji Akintokun, UK &
that is becoming available, but there are                                                          Ireland country manager for Linksys,
critical issues with content and in particular       depends on the                                argues that you have to look at how the
with DRM and conditional access. For any             consumer; there                               network will operate in terms of automa-
operator, if there is no protection mechanism                                                      tion and not just moving content around.
                                                     are as many
it is difficult to generate revenues if people                                                     “We're talking lighting and security, and
can simply copy content from device to               different scenarios                           so on,” he says. “The vision is that you've
device and from network to network, so there         as there are                                  got a user anywhere, who has a
are challenges for anyone trying to break into                                                     consistent interface so that they can go
this market.” (Our CA-DRM feature in this                                                          on any device and choose to connect to
supplement, on pages 44-45, takes a detailed        job to help consumers have more choices        different elements of the home, such as
look at this issue.)                                as to how they get their content and make      to turn the lights on or change the
    Even with something as different as the         it easier for them to get to this content, and heating or move some content.”
connected home, improving customer loyalty          to connect with people and give the hub the       The main challenge is for service
and reducing churn will still be a key issue in     functionality that is required.”               producers to provide adequate bandwidth,
the content delivery market. Once the                  It's safe to assume that before long,       from whatever access technology, and for
customer base is in place, service providers        some form of networking will be the            the device and software firms to make
will need to be creative in using the               norm, rather than the exception, in homes. products that enable the digital network
technology available to them to interconnect        Designing for the next-generation of           to run as easily as possible. The digital
devices and provide desirable value-adds,           digital home technologies places a lot         home simply has to be affordable and
such as video conferencing, or the ability to       of demands on the equipment suppliers          attainable for what is mostly a
programme the TV or the DVR from the PC             and matching the technology to the future      technologically agnostic audience,
or mobile phone. Personalisation will be a          demands of consumers could be a                otherwise it will be condemned to remain
key issue suggests Amdocs' Bennett: “How            challenge in terms of future product           excluded from mass acceptance. CSI
well will service providers know their
customer so that they can provide services          Worldwide telco broadband modem unit growth forecast
that are very specific to them,” he asks.
“Services that can be consumed by each
individual in the way that they want to                                    120
consume them?”
                                                       Millions of units

Will one type of device prevail?
What this means is that the key issue will not                             80
just be about what the service suppliers can
deliver from outside the house, but how well                               60
they can appreciate what goes on inside the
home. It would be wrong to assume that
service providers will automatically shape
what people want to use as the core device
for their home gateway - it's as likely to be                               0
a games device or a TV as much as a set-top                                      2005   2006     2007       2008     2009     2010   2011
box or some specialised media hub.                                                        Legacy gateways    IPTV-enabled gateways
   The fact that Microsoft is actively pursuing
a strategy based around games consoles,             Source: iSuppli

                   page forty
                                Supplement Home Networking

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