Back in the early days of home Internet, residential Internet connections
were confined to relatively low data rates, consisting of no more than a few
tens of megabits per second (Mbit/s). Typical home wireless networks were not
capable of real data speeds more than 20 Mbit/s. For most people, this was more
than adequate for normal email and web browsing tasks.
Of course, this is no longer the case. Speed is the name of the game, creating
a paradigm shift for home networking appliances, such as gateways and set top
boxes. While the primary function of these devices – routing data to
and from the various network devices and the service provider network, and
maintaining appropriate quality of service and security for the different data
streams – remains unchanged, these devices must now perform their
function at gigabit, rather than megabit, speeds.
One major trend that has driven this shift is the growing popularity of
streaming video. Combined with the growth of HDTV and now UHDTV (ultrahigh
definition TV), this requires both speed and bandwidth in order to stream
Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and all the other TV, movies, music and other multimedia
content that we love. The old home networks are simply not up to the task. In
addition, many of us are utilizing network attached storage – a large
storage device attached to the home network – to back up our data and
to serve as a resource for local devices to access. But accessing this storage
repository takes bandwidth, placing even more load on the home wireless
At the same time, the number of devices and form factors that we want to
connect to our home networks has rapidly increased and that trend
doesn’t show any signs of stopping. From smartphones and tablets to
wearables and the smart “things” we want to bring into our
homes, we want these devices to be able to communicate with us and each other
constantly. This has also created an increased need for private cloud
computing. The data these connected devices gather is largely stored in the
cloud and we need to be able to access it anytime, anywhere, instantly.
Thankfully, we are seeing some new connectivity technologies that are
delivering the speeds critical to enabling a successful shift in the home
network paradigm. FTTH – also known as Fiber to the Home –is
starting to be more broadly deployed. While traditional copper cable can
deliver a few hundred megabits per second (up to 1Gbps in exceptional
circumstances) , it can only do so over very limited distances – about
300 feet or less, making it an impractical solution to the speed conundrum.
Fiber cables, on the other hand, are able to deliver 1 Gbit/s speed over a much
larger distance, upwards of ten miles. By running fiber cabling from a service
provide to a home or office, those speeds can be brought directly to the home
network. Here in Austin, you can’t go anywhere without hearing about
Google Fiber, which is bringing this technology (and speed) to Austin.
We will also begin to see the rollout of 802.11ac wave 2. This will enable the
easy wireless distribution of data at gigabit speeds. Within a few years, the
majority of network equipment will utilize the new 802.11ac standard and we
will see these fast speeds throughout most home networks. The combination of
Gigabit downlinks and high-speed WiFi will also drive the need for multi-core
network communication processors based home gateways capable of distributing
the various data streams around the home.
Some of these trends will take years to fully materialize, others are already
impacting the performance of home networks (and the frustration levels of the
consumers who utilize those networks).
This change in paradigm plays to the strengths of Digital Networking group
that has the number one position in wired and wireless markets1.
Delivering high-speed networking with optimum performance and power
consumption is what we do. To further strengthen our position in broadband
residential networking, we acquired Mindspeed’s Comcerto CPE
Communication Processors business earlier this year, including multicore SoCs
that have already gained significant residential networking design, notably in
the Western Digital MyCloud™ NAS box (click
to view commercial), the
Ooma® Telo VoIP gateway
and in leading FTTH operators.
As the broadband gateway market continues to expand, we are looking forward to
enabling many more Gbit home networks in the future.
(1) Gartner, Apr 2014, Market Share: Semiconductor Applications, Worldwide,
2013, “Total Microprocessor Embedded in Wired + Wireless
Communications” (excludes DSP)