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HomeRF gaining power

Apr 23, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The HomeRF Working Group, a consortium of electronic media hardware manufacturers, last week ratified HomeRF 2.0, a higher-powered version of the committee’s previous home networking and broadband delivery specification.
The new specification, which had been under development since the working group received word from the Federal Communications Commission last August that the manufacturers would be permitted to produce more powerful devices, will allow home networking producers to build units capable of streaming at 10 megabits of bandwidth while running eight different streaming applications.
HomeRF Communications Chairman Wayne Caswell sees HomeRF as a technology that could accelerate the deployment of video-on-demand services because its machinery enables different viewers in the same home to view the same video broadcast on computers, televisions and wireless devices simultaneously.
The HomeRF-compliant 310 VOD digital set-top box from uniView Technologies, which can play video encoded in accordance with the MPEG-4 streaming video standard, is one product that furthers the working group’s mission of stimulating growth in the broadband entertainment market, Mr. Caswell said.
“The impact of MPEG-4 is going to be Internet-based video that you can get through any service provider,” Mr. Caswell said. “Once I have received the signal into the house, that’s where HomeRF comes in and adds value.”
MPEG-4, which broadcasts video that’s slightly inferior in quality to video streamed in accordance with the MPEG-2 standard, is still winning many followers in the industry because it consumes much less bandwidth than its MPEG-2 cousin. However, some broadband industry insiders consider MPEG-2 the video standard of the future because it can stream video comparable in resolution to video played on a DVD player.
Intertainer, a video-on-demand provider whose main investor is software giant Microsoft, is testing its service on the HomeRF-based uniView box.
“We want to use the uniView set-top box,” said Marc Sonenberg, executive vice president for content and marketing at Intertainer. Intertainer is streaming on-demand video to a network of subscribers to Broadwing’s ZoomTown DSL service in Cincinnati. In addition, Intertainer is offering VOD to Comcast’s digital cable customers in the Philadelphia area and plans to soon introduce VOD in New Jersey’s Monmouth County.
Despite the FCC’s acceptance of the HomeRF standard, Mr. Caswell acknowledged that HomeRF faces competition from two similar electronic networking standards: Bluetooth and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ 802.11 protocol.
Bluetooth is considered more energy-efficient but less powerful than HomeRF, while 802.11, which was originally designed for business applications, may be more susceptible to interference from nearby appliances than HomeRF, Mr. Caswell said.