WiFi migration and proliferation continues to progress in those locations where it makes the most sense over other broadband wireless alternatives whether outside or inside the home. The latest big news and announcement related is AT&T’s announcement that field trials are under way using WiFi, and specifically Ruckus Wireless’ router product (pictured in the middle) as an in-home alternative to U-verse configurations for content distribution around the home. It is interesting that their primary objective and promotion around the announcement is Ruckus’ product and WiFi’s ability to shave time off their installation intervals more so than other benefits to the consumer. It is more about the economics and savings for them where they continuously benchmark their installation intervals and are averaging around 6.4 hours in the home (AT&T 2007 estimate), and an objective to shave that to under 5 hours per home. I suppose this can also be a critical objective for those homeowners who want their service providers in and out as quickly as possible with a quality installation result each and every time and not sacrificed.
Ruckus has been an interesting vendor to watch in recent years as their success was considerably more with larger service providers in a handful of other countries and with independent telephone companies in the U.S. marketplace. AT&T’s trial of their product and likely intent of selecting Ruckus as a primary vendor for their WiFi solutions is a big feather in Ruckus’ cap. It will also likely result in lesser installations of HomePNA (HPNA) over coaxial wiring solutions and the primary HPNA vendors like 2Wire. The latter solution was benefitting AT&T from the re-use of existing coaxial wiring in homes versus installation of any new wiring (Category 5 or “Cat 5” in most cases). Re-use of existing coax wiring can be problematic where wiring has become too old or was poorly installed. Wireless solutions can solve these problems, yet there are a number of variables inside and outside the home in the access network that requires specific solutions that might dictate wireless or wired solutions –so AT&T is not intimating that the wireless alternative is a one solution fits all proposition.
The real rub in promoting this migration is wireless solutions’ ability, or inability, to accommodate what AT&T and most other Tier 1 service providers predict and estimate is the requisite bandwidth requirements for in-home distribution of multimedia content and services. Their and others’ assumptions are U.S. homes targeted are an average 2,500 to 3,000 square feet and have at least 3-4 TVs that homeowners want to deliver any and all of their multimedia content to and from. So AT&T and their like-minded competitors suggest that the service delivery threshold in-home for content distribution is characterized by a need to simultaneously deliver and accommodate two standard-definition and two high-definition shows (streams) being accommodated by a total-home DVR solution, a user or two also using the Internet and making a voice call all at the same time requiring an estimated throughput of around 80 Mbps (I won’t bore you with the math that lead to this figure). Problem with WiFi solutions (Ruckus’ admittance anyway) is the current 802.11n version of WiFi equipment claims to “ensure” total transmission and throughput in the range of 30-50 Mbps throughout the home. While this estimate falls short of the anticipated estimate and requirement, I’ll wager that this threshold is not a requirement just yet in most homes going all-digital and IP, multimedia and requiring high-def to more than one screen. Okay, maybe so for the most die-hard digeratis out there! For those in the need for speed, keep an eye out for the next 802.11 versions, “v” especially!