Ops See Home-Net Promise


The ability to use a cable modem to network multiple PCs has rapidly become a staple offering in MSOs' high-speed data packages.

At the same time, the deployment of digital video recorders has caused cable engineers to think about home networking from a video perspective.

"Home networking has been deployed in all classic [pre-AT&T Broadband acquisition] markets," said Comcast Cable director of engineering Mark Francisco during a panel session at this month's Western Show.

The MSO charges data subscribers an extra $10 per month for home-networking service, using products from Linksys Group Inc. and Netgear Inc. A Comcast video subscriber with high-speed home networking pays $52.95 a month.

Comcast deployed a CableHome-based solution and will install a data network on up to four in-home PCs, Francisco said. "We also give them web space a little more speed."

But Comcast also is trialing a video-centric home networking package with Samsung Corp. and Ucentric Systems LLC.

"The trials have come a long way," said Francisco. The test allows consumer to shift video, pictures and music among various devices in the home.

One goal of the home-networking trial is to better understand how a home network will change consumer behavior.

"The viewers can move away from live broadcast to shared media, either in the home or in the network," said Francisco. "You can put HDTV pictures on the TV screen."

Music files can be played from a PC onto a home stereo system, and controlled from the television screen.

Various devices — perhaps a second digital video recorder or a TV set-top — can request content from a main hub server in the home, on which audio, video or still picture files reside.

"Devices can request what they need and we can prioritize the quality of service," Francisco said.

Time Warner Cable, which has just begun shipping additional DVRs to single-unit homes, is also taking its PC home-networking experience to the video space.

"We have a lot of faith in home networking," said director of strategy and development Remi Rieger.

Time Warner Cable launched data home networking 18 months ago for about $10 per month. Called Wireless Road Runner, the service connects two PCs. "Customer care has been very minimal," he said.

Like Comcast, Time Warner Cable's sister venture-capital division has invested in Entropic Communications Inc., which is designing a 270-Megabit chip that would greatly increases the capacity of today's home networks. It would be large enough to send several HDTV programs from a centralized DVR in the home to various set-tops throughout the house.