Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Home Plug AV Emerges

I'd never been very interested in Home Plug technology--the reputedly flaky method for running internet service over home wiring--until LUS announced that it would be using the technology to provide an easy way to wire the home for internet service that avoided pulling new wires.

This new announcement, reported in PC World, claims new speeds and new qualities for the technology:
HomePlug 1.0 moves data at a theoretical maximum of 14 mbps per second, with real world performance roughly equivalent to the 4.5 mbps or so of 802.11b Wi-Fi. HomePlug AV's theoretical maximum throughput is 200 mbps; real-world data rates should run between 70 mbps and 100 mbps, says Andy Melder, senior vice president for strategic business development at Intellon, one of the companies contributing to the spec.

The new spec includes quality-of-service technology to ensure smooth video and audio streaming and 128-bit AES encryption, a more robust security algorithm than the 56-bit DES encryption in HomePlug 1.0, Melder says. In addition, HomePlug AV technology can work over coaxial cable and phone lines as well as over the electrical wiring for which it was designed.
Should this technology test out LUS should try to implement this version. I've had some pretty severe doubts about HomePlug; thinking that bringing people onboard with a low-bandwidth in-home wiring solution (I consider 4 megs low in the upcoming order of things) in order to get customers on might well have the effect of limiting their expansion to higher bandwidth services later on since the wiring they depended on wouldn't handle it. If this works (and HomePlug doesn't have a great history of delivering) it could do a lot toward alleviating that concern.

Lafayette, as a business proposition alone, needs to do everything it can to encourage a unified high bandwidth environment. Big bandwidth is a huge boon to local development. Complicated hardware technology and limited solutions that require a lot of programming are the result of trying to fit new ideas into a constrained amount of bandwidth. It is much, much easier to develop exciting new applications that run over 100 megs than it is over 2 or even 10. Big bandwidth will be available in Lafayette. But available is not the same thing as having the large installed base that provides a large enough body of users to make the development of brilliant new ideas an economic proposition and size is a major issue. Lafayette will need to have as big an installed base of high-bandwidth users as is possible to build up those numbers. In addition, many applications depend for their usefulness on many other people sharing the same capacity. (Think the phone, or video conferencing. If you can't call your sister or business partner you're much less likely to buy the service; its value to all increases with every subscriber.). You need a large number of the base to be capable of talking to each other at high bandwidth to make the business case work.

This line of analysis is one reason that its been seriously suggested that insystem bandwidth be set at a uniformly high level--say one hundred megs. It would, at very little cost to the LUS system, make Lafayette a testbed for developing and marketing the advanced services that will one day be available across the nation. (Outsystem bandwidth--the kind that connects you to people outside Lafayette's network--will have to be paid for. It's a real expense so tiers of pricing and speeds still make sense when locals travel to addresses outside our city.)

HomePlug AV potentially removes one more barrier to having a ubiquitous, high-speed network available to everyone in Lafayette at low cost. We should look into it.


Anonymous said...

I use HomePlug at home, where my cable modem is too far away from where I want to use wireless. So, I go from my cable modem to a lan upstairs, to a HomeAv plug, to another HomeAv plug on the ground floor, to a wireless unit, and it works wonderfully. I'm going to upgrade asap so that I'm no longer capped by the 14 mbps limit.

Raymond Camden said...

Sorry, I forgot to sign my last comment, Raymond Camden, ray@camdenfamily.com.

John said...

Hi Raymond,

I'm happy to hear that it works well for you. It's a technology that for some reason never really took off but which seemed on the surface sensible. I've wired two homes now with cat-5 and never regretted it--even though I now really only use one drop in the room for the server, printers and and wifi. Since my whole household is on laptops I've slacked of on the wiring. There are still times thought when I walk back in the office to do intensive work.