As fixed and wireless broadband proliferate across the globe and the hunger for web and video content escalates, home networking is becoming an increasingly vital component of the broadband saga. This is especially true as more and more consumer electronics ship IP-ready and consumers become increasingly used to accessing the web by more than just a desktop PC at home or in the office.
For a sign of the times, one can turn to Singapore, where the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) sees home networking as the next area of development for its NBN project. At this year's CommunicAsia event, IDA senior director for next generation infrastructure Philip Heah said that the regulator has been receiving many queries from consumers asking how to network devices in their homes, and would kick off a home networking initiative to address their concerns. This month, the IDA will release a home networking guide for homeowners, which will offer a summary and comparison of common options to connect devices in different parts of the house to the NBN's fiber access termination point.
But even as home networking gains more relevance in the age of fiber access and the Internet of Things, it's also becoming more complicated. Service providers have typically shied away from becoming too involved in home networks primarily because managing devices sitting behind the home gateway (which service providers would naturally be expected to do) was a challenge. Even as industry standards groups like the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) have labored to provide protocols and standards to enable devices to connect to home network gateways more easily, a mishmash of access standards (from Ethernet, HomePlug and MoCa to Wi-Fi and WiGig) has complicated device interoperability.
Meanwhile, there's a new complication arising - the cloud. If "traditional" home networking was concerned mainly with enabling devices within a home to share resources and content within that network (such as your iTunes playlist, for example), the cloud adds a new dimension by allowing some of that content to be hosted outside the home network in a way that's still accessible by all the devices connected to that gateway.
With industry hype growing around streaming content services like Netflix, YouTube and Rhapsody, and content-hosting services like Apple's iCloud and Amazon's Cloud Player - all of which tout the ability of users to easily access content via multiple devices Ð the traditional paradigm of home networks is arguably changing, says Jim Williams, president of consultancy Media
Strategies and Solutions.
"The continuing expansion of cloud-based services will definitely impact how home networking deploys and evolves," he tells Telecom Asia. "Each instance of a cloud-based service chips away at the complexity that would otherwise be required of a home network for that application. Cloud-based services concentrate complexity in the cloud. Home networks concentrate complexity in the home."