The subject of cable gateways and the FCC’s AllVid proposal have taken up a lot of virtual ink here this year, so as we look to wind things up for 2010, I thought I’d recap how the concept of networking IP devices in cable homes has evolved since 2009.
The Router Plus Wireless Access Point
Believe it or not, combining a home modem/router and wireless access point into one box is still a relatively new phenomenon for the cable industry. In October of last year Motorola introduced an all-in-one gateway with a DOCSIS 3.0 modem, four-port router, and 802.11n access point. The gateway subsequently shipped through cable provider channels and began selling in Best Buy. However, I noted this past summer that retail placement brought about an interesting shift. For years cable modems were promoted in stores through cable service bundles, while home networking devices were set aside in a separate category. The merging of devices marked a new mindset in the consumer retail space. Old-school modems were transformed into and began selling as home network hubs.
QAM Plus IP
Late last year also gave us our first good look at the Motorola transport gateway. The transport gateway is only the first incarnation of a networking concept, but it’s one that’s exceedingly relevant to current FCC AllVid discussions. (More on that in a minute.) The transport gateway adds in four QAM tuners to a wireless gateway like the one described above. The combination allows cable providers to pipe MPEG video into the home, which can then be transcoded into IP for networking to all manner of IP devices alongside other IP content and applications available over the Internet.
Home Network Management
With greater interest in a cable gateway solution comes new opportunities for efficient home network management. In August of this year Motorola introduced the new Motorola EDGE Service Assurance Software Suite. The software provides a way for operators to provision and support home broadband devices remotely. Motorola also launched the EDGE Home Center in October, which pulls that management function into a cloud-based interface, making greater use of IP connectivity. While cable homes aren’t all-IP today, the ability to do more over IP for cable home networks continues to increase. Adding a gateway device to the mix can only accelerate that trend.
Finally there are the FCC AllVid deliberations. The FCC’s goal is to make it possible for retail CE devices to access multichannel video programming services. One option on the table is for the FCC to mandate new gateway devices that support cable video services while also opening up access in the home to network CE devices like TVs, game consoles, computers, and tablets. We are still at the very beginning of the AllVid debate, but with interface control and the fate of service bundles at stake, the discussion is sure to heat up in 2011.