Customer stickiness, more service revenues, and customer demand for networking to share that high speed connection to multiple PCs is the common refrain coming from Ma Bell as to why they are interested, which sounds a lot like that of the cable guys.

Catching Customers w/ Home Nets, Part 2

Mike Wolf


By Mike Wolf

Customer stickiness, more service revenues, and customer demand for networking to share that high speed connection to multiple PCs is the common refrain coming from Ma Bell as to why they are interested, which sounds a lot like that of the cable guys. 

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Last time I looked at the cable industry's efforts to stake a claim to your home network.  As to be expected, your telephone company is also interested in becoming your home LAN manager.  Customer stickiness, more service revenues, and customer demand for networking to share that high speed connection to multiple PCs is the common refrain coming from Ma Bell as to why they are interested, which sounds a lot like that of the cable guys. 

So while the reasons for their interest are similar to the cable industry, how do the DSL efforts to provide home networks to their broadband customers so far stack up?

First of all, while the number of DSL subscribers is actually less than that of cable modem users in the US, the telcos are farther ahead so far in the emerging race to provide managed home networks.   The reason for this has less to actually do with any concerted effort from the DSL industry as a whole, but more to do with a particular home network equipment provider: 2Wire.

2Wire is the major home gateway provider to the DSL market in the US, having deals with nearly all the major telcos such as SBC, Verizon and Bellsouth to provide home gateway products.   They also have a program with Earthlink, one of the largest independent ISPs in North America.  The company, which recently released its 3rd generation gateway product, has had the most success due to being first to market with a focused gateway solution targeted at the DSL market, as well as providing the only real back end management solution for DSL connected home networks.

The second reason is more important. Since up until recently the DSL industry had very little coordination on residential gateway and home network standards (unlike the cable industry with its CableHome specification), 2Wire filled a need that wasn't being addressed by other modem and gateway vendors vying for the business, which was:  How we get these networks deployed, managed, and bill for services remotely?   2Wire's solution, called OGMP (short for Open Gateway Management Protocol), was the answer.  OGMP is 2Wire's protocol specification, which they provide in the form of back end management software as part of a gateway relationship with a service provider. 

While 2Wire filled a gap in the initial rollouts of DSL managed home networks, the DSL industry has finally woken up the fast growing demand for home networks.  The DSLForum, the dominant DSL industry trade and technical consortium,  recently announced  the formation of DSLHome.  DSLHome proposes to do much of what CableHome has done, by defining technical requirements for DSL connected home networks and gateways, as well as defining a standard for backend management for DSL home networks.   While the group may not be as focused on interoperability testing as CableHome (and also won't charge the controversially high fees that CableLabs charges to equipment providers for CableLabs certification), it will ultimately provide a much greater degree of industry cooperation and standardization on DSL connected home networks.

What does this mean for 2Wire, the early winner in the market for DSL home networks?   Certainly more competition, as companies such as Netgear, Linksys and Efficient Networks  will be able to partner with network management software providers such as Core Networks to create solutions built on a standard protocol. But 2Wire had already been planning an answer to this competitive threat: In December of last year, they proposed that their technology, OGMP, become the basis for the DSLHome's home network management protocol.

Mike Wolf is the director of enterprise and residential communications at In-Stat/MDR, where he's responsible for all LAN and connected home research. He is author of Speed! Understanding and Installing Home Networks. Wolf has also worked in the semiconductor and wireless industries, and spent a one-week stint as an ice cream man. Write him at: mwolf@reedbusiness.com


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