1. What are the market drivers for Triple Play and IPTV whole-house distribution ?
The prerequisite for Triple-Play and IPTV whole-house distribution is of course to have the digital content actually reaching the home. Triple-Play and IPTV offers rapidly expand:
* At the end of 2006, there were 281 million broadband subscribers worldwide, up by 67 million according to Point-Topic. The 450 million mark should be reached by 2010.
* There were 3.9 million households in 2006 which had subscribed to an IPTV offer, and they are expected to reach 63 million in 2010 according to i-Suppli.
As the home gateway and end-user devices (TVs, PCsâ€¦) are seldom close to each other, the need to stream the broadband digital content around the home has become a necessity. In parallel, flat-screens, DVD players, PVRs, media servers and so on multiply inside the homes. By 2010, half of these electronic devices will be networked enabled. The market for Triple-Play and IPTV whole-house distribution is proven.
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2. What are the main requirements to enable Triple Play and IPTV whole house distribution ?
A gateway, several PCs, one or two laptops, a printer and sometimes a router were the original elements of the home network; ie data-centric applications. Today, on top of data, the home network must support multiple and simultaneous HDTV and SDTV streams, audio, VoIP, gamingâ€¦ This implies a guaranteed QoS so that the applications do not interfere with each other:
* Bandwidth: considering two 12Mbps HDTV streams, two 4Mbps SDTV streams, four PCs sharing a 4Mbps connection and browsing the Internet, two 0,12 VoIP calls and four 0,2 music files, the total necessary bandwidth would be around 40Mbps.
* Latency: To avoid the delay of the packets and enable a smooth conversation for example, latency must be kept below 20 ms.
* Jitter: Essential for video, the packet regularity must be below 1ms.
And of course, the service must be available everywhere in the home, the set-up must be plug&play and the total cost reasonable.
3. Why is PLC technology the best fit for these requirements?
All households have electricity, so they are network-ready; there is no need to install new cables or do “truck-rolls”. Then, with several electrical sockets in every room, IPTV & Triple-Play services are available everywhere in the home with consistent performance. The signal goes “through” walls, up and down floors. Last but not least, PLC is easy to use, as consumers just need to plug the device and it is connected.
4. How important is standardization for this market ?
It is essential. For the end user, a standard means safety, performance and reliability. For companies, it enables to reach the benefits of economy of scale, which is impossible with proprietary technology. It is the best way not to limit or delay the growth of the whole industry.
That’s why the Homeplug AV standard was designed. It is backed by the HomePlug Alliance, a strong consortium of 80 members at each level of the value chain.
Open and multi-source, HomePlug AV guarantees smooth distribution of multiple and simultaneous HDTV streams (as well as SDTV streams), audio, VoIP, gaming everywhere in the home.
When consumers buy “HomePlug certified products”, they can be sure that their user experience is guaranteed by a quality compliance and interoperability program.
5. How is PLC technology affected by universal differences in powerline standards (i.e. different voltage and frequency)?
PLC technology is not affected by different voltages (i.e. works the same on 110VAC and 220VAC lines).
Concerning frequency differences (50Hz vs. 60Hz), it could have a minor impact in the past on the VoIP applications. But HomePlug AV vastly improved performance by scheduling transmissions according to the line frequency to avoid line-synchronous noise.
6. How significant a role does the quality of the powerline installation have in the performance of PLC equipment? Can PLC systems be installed in older buildings with old wiring?
Generally the quality of the powerline installation is not the most important factor (unless it is really bad with arcing fuses or junctions). The bigger issue is the topology or layout of the power lines.
To deal with these issues, the key is Digital Signal Processing, which is a core competence we have at SPiDCOM. Products based on HomePlug AV by SPiDCOM enable to have very good performance on old buildings and old wiring, as well as other types of cables like coax and phonelines.
In short, SPiDCOM HomePlug AV PLC technology is effective on any wire, everywhere.
7. How secure is PLC technology (i.e. can neighboring homes interfere with or communicate with a PLC system)?
Contrary to Wi-Fi, security concerns were carefully taken into account right from the start of the work on HomePlug AV specification.
First, of course, as the information is sent on a wire, nobody with a laptop outside your home can penetrate your network. Then, as the signal must pass through the utility meter, neighboring homes generally do not interfere ; also the wiring distance helps reduce the interference.
In case of several networks inside the same home, HomePlug AV modems cooperate to share the power line fairly and avoid any interference. Lastly, the solution implements 128-bit AES Link Encryption to ensure privacy.
This way, HomePlug AV for broadband home-networking is very secure.
8. How soon do you see PLC products becoming widely available to integrators and consumers ?
As soon as possible! PLC is a great technology, so I sincerely wish everybody knows about it and experience it in their everyday lives. However, to convince integrators and consumers, fabless semi-conductor companies like SPiDCOM are not enough, we need the help of “big guns” which have the marketing power and the audience to make this vision come true.
Inside the HomePlug Alliance, we have a lot of these companies. Their involvement proves that PLC is about to reach the mass market. For example, Intel plans to include support for the HomePlug AV technology as an optional feature for desktop platforms by 2008.
So we are on the verge of making the vision come true!
About Frederic Onado and SPiDCOM Technologies:
Frederic Onado is VP Marketing and Sales at SPiDCOM Technology.
SPiDCOM Technologies is a fabless semi-conductor company. It specializes in integrated circuits and Linux-based software bundles for very high-speed communication over electrical powerlines and coaxial cables, for both In-Home and Access applications.
SPiDCOM’s current 200Mbps class PLC technology has been successfully deployed, since 2005, in both PLC and cable markets (In-Home and Access). Using this extensive experience as a basis, SPiDCOM is now updating its product range to include the HomePlug AV standard (by the end of 2007).
SPiDCOM Technologies is contributor member of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, and Frederic Onado is Chairman of the HomePlug Europe Group.
About the HomePlugÂ® Powerline Alliance:
The HomePlug Powerline Alliance, Inc. is an industry-led initiative established to create specifications for home high-speed powerline networking products and command & control among platforms within the home, and broadband access services to the home. The Alliance accelerates demand for HomePlug-enabled products and services worldwide through the sponsorship of market and user education programs. Membership in the Alliance has grown to include over 70 industry-leading companies.
HomePlug Sponsor companies include Cisco (CSCO); Comcast (CMCSK); EarthLink (ELNK); GE Security, Inc., an affiliate of General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE); Intel Corporation (INTC); LG Electronics (Korea Stock Exchange: 6657.KS); Motorola (MOT); RadioShack Corporation (RSH); Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (SSNGY.PK); Sharp Laboratories of America; Sony (SNE); TCL Group Holding Co., Ltd (TCL Group); and Texas Instruments Incorporated (NYSE:TXN) (TI).
Contributor members include Arkados (OTCBB: AKDS), Conexant (CNXT); Gigle Semiconductor; Intellon Corporation; and SPiDCOM Technologies.
Additional information about the Alliance, including a complete listing of certified products, is available at http://www.homeplug.org.