Blog Post

Wi-Fi Will Own the Home Network

Two studies came out today touting the conclusion that the multiple types of home networking technologies will not compete with one another, but will happily co-exist within the home. I, on the other hand, am beginning to think that Wi-Fi will take the lion’s share of the market and edge all others into one-trick pony status, à la Bluetooth for headsets.

Cisco’s investment yesterday into WiFi-based wireless video transfer company Celeno Communications just drives this point home. While some may argue that videophiles will choose a specialized standard such as WirelessHD or WHDI, plain old Wi-Fi will likely work for most people, and won’t require the average consumer to do a lot of interoperability research before buying products.

For further proof, look at the myriad devices that already contain Wi-Fi chips, ranging from pricey televisions to cheap digital cameras. Or Intel’s personal area network technology, which is based on Wi-Fi technology, is already shipping on Centrino chips and will be activated sometime early next year. Intel also earlier this summer invested in a startup called Ozmo Devices that uses Wi-Fi to link up computer peripherals.

“We’re working within Wi-Fi because it’s becoming the must-have accessory,” Ashish Gupta, mobile platforms group product manager at Intel said. “There’s a ton of devices that are shipping with Wi-Fi already and it just makes sense for this to be the standard of choice.” From a regulatory perspective, Wi-Fi does have advantages over many nascent standards because it uses similar frequency bands around the world, whereas some other standards, such Ultra-wideband or Wireless HD at 60 GHz, still face various standards or regulatory hurdles.

12 Responses to “Wi-Fi Will Own the Home Network”

  1. How long have I been telling you guys that all pcs and tvs will eventually come equipped with a built-in ability to communicate wirelessly? Quartics has been doing this for a while now and sells a box that transfers your pc onto your tv. But who wants to buy a box?

    Thinking further down the road – everything will be delivered wireless: telephone, internet and television. The day will come when you won’t need your copper, coax or fiber. It’s no wonder that cable and telcos have invested billions in Sprint’s wimax. Its just a matter of time. Zipityzap!

  2. Well I wouldn’t go so far as to say the article is obvious — though Wi-Fi has been the “winner” for most “traditional” home networking uses (PCs, media players, etc.) for quite some time…

    I think everyone (including telcos) would love if they could make it the winner for video distribution, but I also think the fact that they’ve placed their bets on MoCA and HPNA 3.0 for the set top box shows that it’s still not even close (despite some success for folks like Ruckus with non-HD deployments).

    I’d also say that there’s different kinds of video distribution to worry about , and how you define what parts of that are what matters. I don’t think anyone is looking at wireless HD/UWB as a home video distribution network (perhaps WHDI is looking at this app) as much as a cable replacement technology. Maybe Wi-Fi has the range to hit those “satellite” set top boxes in the bedrooms, maybe not.

    My point is that I’d love to see Wi-Fi be able to be all and do all in the home network, but there’s something to be said for coax/phoneline (or even powerline) backbone technologies that can move the really big data streams around the house. You can always integrate Wi-Fi at the endpoints and jump off for your devices that are so equipped. But I for one, wouldn’t want to be trying to distribute my voice, data, streaming audio AND two or more HD streams on a single Wi-Fi network in my home.

  3. Stacey Higginbotham

    I won’t call Paul an ignoramus, but there are a lot of wireless technologies aiming to unseat Wi-Fi in the home. For video, Ultrawideband, Wireless HD at 60 GHz, wireless video at 5GHz using WHDI are attempts. There’s Zigbee and Z-wave for home automation. Bluetooth and UWB for computer gear, and more on the way. Those of you saying this article is obvious actually proves the point better than anything I could say.

  4. Andrew

    Paul, I’ll call you ignoramus. Over the past 7 years there have been many other technologies that were supposed to network the home (tv, appliances, et al). Where are they now?

  5. Call me an ignoramus, but wouldn’t this article, and especially the headline, have been more appropriate in 2001? Isn’t WiFi’s dominance pretty well settled through the reasonable techno-horizon?

  6. @Preetam:

    I have commented on similar issues earlier and over the past few years, gave a reasonably hearty effort into figuring out why embedded Wi-Fi isn’t more prevalent among shipped mobile handsets. I came to the (perhaps assumptive) realization that telcos will not do anything that doesn’t paint a clear cost/benefit picture within a short period of time. As telcos struggle to understand 3G while implementing 2.5g and then scratch their heads at 4g/WiMax/LTE while they are still figuring out 3G, they are always using investor understanding on a roll-over basis and cannot justify deep capex or any remotely edgy concept. Sprint is a good example of telco investor wrath – they tried to embrace WiMax and the notion of multiple IP-connected devices on a nationwide network, visionary for sure – only to take a ticker beating from the market which reduced their cash balance and crippled them from fixing their merger with Sprint as well as making the continual capex-heavy investments required to create a next-generation nation-wide network. Maybe Clearwire will pickup where Sprint left off…

    On the other hand, here in the office, we have been using T-mobile’s [email protected] solution for quite some time and although its good, it definitely still needs work. T-mobile doesn’t have to worry about cannibalization of a landline business by offering VOIP over Wi-Fi on their cell plans because they don’t have one whereas ATT and Verizon still have significant landline businesses (not to imply that WiFi on handsets don’t have other uses). As Uverse and FiOS gain marketshare, they may see benefits in promoting Wi-Fi-enabled handsets that are Fixed Mobile Convergence compliant and perhaps help them offload mobile bandwidth costs, get a headstart on the massive QoS issues related to an all IP-enabled home, etc. while also promoting new features that can take advantage of ubiquitous Wi-Fi on mobile handsets.