Will telcos take charge of home networks?

Michael Philpott/Ovum
13 Jun 2011

Ovum recently attended and presented at the Connected Home Global Summit. In many ways the connected home is advancing at a tremendous rate, but with regards to the home network itself we are still left scratching our heads, and it is now one of the bottlenecks to the “home of tomorrow.”

It’s not that technology in this area is not advancing – it is. But we are still left with the problem that every home is different, is located in an environment largely outside the service provider’s control, and there is no single solution that works in all cases.

Service providers are well positioned to take control of the home network and help consumers optimize it to provide the best-quality experience for all the services they wish to access. This would provide significant value and therefore differentiation. However, it would also come at a significant cost, and the question is, is this a cost that service providers wish to bear?

One of the most interesting presentations at the conference came from Roberto Saracco, a futurologist and director of Telecom Italia’s Future Centre. In the presentation, Saracco talked a great deal about the point at which the human brain is unable to detect the difference between a video screen and the real world, and the technology developments that will allow virtually any glass surface to become a video screen. Entertainment value aside, the implications of Saracco’s presentation are real and significant.

Video is creeping into everything we do. In something that is starting to resemble a scene from a Harry Potter film, images in (digital) newspapers and books are already starting to become moving video rather than static pictures. In Saracco’s world this will also apply to the family photos stuck to the fridge door and the pictures hanging on your walls.

Nothing too alarming here perhaps, but add to this the fact that some of these screens will be able to deliver a true “real-world experience” – to deliver that kind of video quality using today’s technology will require in the region of 150Mbps per channel – and it starts to become clear that the bandwidth explosion is far from over.

To advocates of fiber-to-the-home, this kind of vision is not new and indeed is the kind of development they have been pointing towards for some time in order to justify the need for ultra-fast broadband. However, even with such technology starting to become a reality in many countries, there is a big hole in this vision that nobody seems to have really resolved – the home network.

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