Wiring (and Un-Wiring) the Connected Home

The first installment of this two-part series explored the trends that created the need for connected homes, and introduced the technologies commonly used to deliver unified digital services throughout the home. In this installment, we’ll take a closer look at each network technology standard and offer a description and practical guidelines regarding each.

MoCA_Backbone

Fig.1 – A connected home typically integrates at least one wired and one wireless technology to create a hybrid network that delivers the right amount of fixed and mobile connectivity wherever it’s needed. Diagram courtesy of Entropic Communications.

Truth in networking

In order to understand why hybrid architectures are often the most practical and cost-effective way to implement connected homes, it’s necessary to take a closer look at the capabilities, requirements, and shortcomings of each commonly-used home networking technologies. The strengths and weaknesses of each networking technology are summarized in the table below.

Connected_Home_Narrative

Table 1: – A connected home leverages the strengths of each networking technology to provide the right mix of reliability, connectivity, mobility and affordability.

Theoretical vs. Actual

For any networking technology, there is always a difference between its theoretical and net throughput or actual rate. Though often the number advertised outside the package, the theoretical rate is a maximum rate that is rarely if ever realized even under the most ideal of conditions. What is really important is the actual data rate, or the rate actually realized in the home.

The amount of bandwidth actually available to the user is affected by two factors. First, every network technology must use part of its data stream to perform various overhead functions that insure data moves efficiently through the network and arrives intact. For wireless and powerline the overhead can use up as much as 50 percent of the network’s advertised bandwidth. In addition, some of the remaining capacity is often lost due non-ideal channel conditions and external interference which the forces networked devices to re-transmit lost data frames.

This means that, while a typical 802.11n wireless network may have a rated capacity of 144Mbps, only about half of that is readily available for transporting AV media. Wireless networks also lose capacity as the distance between nodes increases or as the speed increases (Dual N routers have less physical distance strength than their older G cousins). Electrical noise from radios, appliances or other sources can further reduce a wireless network’s capacity. Power line networks are also highly-susceptible to external interference so that, even under normal conditions, a power line transceiver rated at 100Mbps may have its best-case useable capacity of around 50Mbps knocked down by another 25 percent or more.

Weighing the Options

It is important to assess the network requirements as a function of usage model, services, and devices in use, among other factors, to determine the right mix of technologies.

Some rules of thumb to use when deciding which networking technology to use:

  • Ethernet: Use wherever practical (and cost-effective) for fixed data connections in home offices, home theaters and other applications.
  • Coax: Use for delivery of high definition video, business-class Ethernet services, and as an extension of existing wireless networks.
  • Powerline: Use as a reliable, if slower, data connection for fixed networking applications wherever a coaxial cable outlet is not available.
  • Wireless: Place wireless access points strategically so they are as close to the areas where people are most likely to use their mobile electronics. Where possible, connect the access points to the network with Ethernet or coaxial networks, with powerline as a backup option where necessary.

Table 2 illustrates how each home networking technology fits in the connected home.

Technology Where Best Used
Ethernet *Applications where cabling already exists or high performance justifies installation costs.*Component-to-component connections on desktop or within home entertainment and server systems.
Coax (MoCA) *Use whenever reliable high-bandwidth data or high-quality video is required.*Extension of wireless network.
Powerline (Home Plug) *Data connections for Internet-enabled products don’t require high bandwidth such as “smart” appliances, security systems, and home automation components.*Adding a data connection where Wi-Fi or a coax outlet is not available.
Wireless (WiFi) *For mobility and portability type devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones* Common use areas such as kitchen, living room, den and patio.*Private spaces such as home office and bedrooms.

By making it easy to access information and entertainment anywhere, connected homes can improve consumers’ productivity and leisure activities. Using the guidelines presented here, a home electronics, each networking technology can be leveraged to create a satisfactory and productive home network.

In order to understand why hybrid architectures are often the most practical and cost-effective way to implement connected homes, it’s necessary to take a closer look at the capabilities, requirements, and shortcomings of each commonly-used home networking technologies. The strengths and weaknesses of each networking technology are summarized in the table below.



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About The Author

Rob is an advocate for MoCA technology used by pay TV operators worldwide for a variety of applications including multi-room DVR, gaming, HDTV and ultraHDTV. It is also used to extend wireless networks. Please visit www.mocalliance.org for more information. Rob can be reached directly at [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. Adding some extra on WiFi, in many cases walls and ceilings are filled with iron for strenght or alumnium for isolation. So each floor, sometimes every single room has to have a WAP to get a good wireless coverage.

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