AUSTIN, Texas Just as the Multimedia over Coax Alliance is gaining traction with a handful of service providers, a new standards effort and a startup are responding to a call for next-generation gigabit home networks. The new options come at a time when some chip makers say MoCA is rising above the field of competing coax, phone line, powerline and wireless technologies.
Europe's International Telecommunication Union is hammering out a home network standard designed to run over telephone, powerline or coax networks. At least one proposal for the so-called "g.hn" effort calls for a gigabit physical layer to deliver video throughout a home.
"Maybe this will help consolidate the [fragmented] home network efforts," said Barry O'Mahony, a senior staff systems engineer at Intel Corp. who has been attending the g.hn meetings. "This has potential to get traction as a next-generation offering, so we're taking a long serious look at it," he added.
Other companies active in the group include BT, Alcatel-Lucent, Broadcom, Intellon, Panasonic and Texas Instruments. The Intel engineer said technical requirements for the spec could be set by a February meeting in Geneva with a final standard possible by the end of the year.
"Everybody is there because we think it could work to stop the fragmentation, but the possibility it may define a lowest common denominator spec is the big fear," said a representative of Texas Instruments who asked not to be named.
Meanwhile startup Gigle Semiconductor (Edinburgh, Scotland) is preparing to ship in 2008 a gigabit device with similar targets. The company, still in stealth mode, was founded by two technologists from powerline specialist DS2 and two from STMicroelectronics.
The startup aims to deliver an integrated chip that supports two channels, one for powerline and the other for a flexible mix of twisted pair, coax and powerline media. It will integrate a processor core, cache, DSP, media access controller and physical layer block.
"This is designed to be installed in set-top boxes, gateways, PCs and video game consoles," said Davin McAndrews, senior vice president of marketing and business development at Gigle.
The new efforts come as MoCA has kicked off its own version 2.0 effort. The group has not disclosed its targets but its users are calling for the 175 Mbit/s net to push aggressively ahead.
"The next-generation MoCA spec needs to support about 400 Mbits/s within two years and a Gbit in four years," said Mark Wegleitner, chief technology officer of Verizon Communications in a keynote speech at the first MoCA technical conference here last week.
So far Verizon is one of the main pioneers of the technology, shipping about 3 million MoCA nodes to date as part of its FIOS fibre-to-the-home services. In a separate talk here, Jed Johnson, senior director of systems engineering at Motorola, which supplies set-top boxes to Verizon echoed the call for more bandwidth.
"There needs to be a gigabit path in the home," said Johnson.
Motorola also supplies for AT&T's IPTV service set-top boxes using the technology of the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HPNA). In addition, Johnson said he anticipates delivering in 2008 set-tops using the HomePlug AV powerline technology for carriers in Europe and Canada, given the outlook for a powerline standard in the IEEE 1901 group.
Nevertheless, MoCA is likely to get the lion's share of the home net design wins in set tops, Johnson said.
Representatives from cable-TV providers Comcast and Cox Communications said they may start deploying set-tops using MoCA in late 2008.
"We will be entering the market with devices in 2008 that can communicate with each other, and there will also be [Wi-Fi] routers and access points with [our own] protocol, but there's not a strong bet on [the wireless] area," said Tony Werner, chief technology officer of Comcast in a keynote.
The rollout probably will begin in select markets in the third quarter once Comcast's software is complete. "I don't think we've said how many boxes will have the comms silicon, and I don't think we've made that decision yet," Werner said.
"Our MoCA trials got sidetracked by the FCC requirement for Cable Card by July 2007, so we had to redesign our set tops and tweak our software," said Vince Groff, director of video product development at Cox Communications Inc. "I suspect in 2008 we may go back to our MoCA trials and start deploying some MoCA systems," he added.
Jumping on the bandwagon, Cisco's Scientific"Atlanta group showed demos of set tops and home routers supporting MoCA. The company will offer the systems as an option in 2008.