Finding a home on the smart grid

Home networking was one of the most-talked-about telecom topics of 2008. Since then, home networks have been pulled into the broader discussion of smart grids, and a home network may in fact become just one facet of an overall residential smart grid architecture. Or, maybe they are the same thing? The answer to that question may depend on how far telcos and cable TV companies are willing to extend themselves into the home.

There has been much recent news on the home network front: A number of residential gateways announcements have come out within the last month or so, and Parks Associates recently released a study forecasting that residential gateways will be used in more than half of all home network deployments by 2013. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Standards and Technology recently approved, the home network standard emerging from the International Telecommunications Union, to support smart grid applications like household power management.

These movements suggest that broadband service providers have as much a chance as utility companies to lead the charge into residential smart grid architectures and services. Telephony reported this week that one speaker at the FTTH Conference & Expo in Houston suggested that small telcos and utility companies in particular should partner up.

I like the idea that both telcos and cable TV companies can make a difference in the smart grid market because they already have more interactive relationships with residential consumers than most utilities do. Taking an active role in smart grid developments will help them strengthen their bonds with residential consumers as they continue to battle one another in the TV, broadband Internet and voice telephony segments. Perhaps the key to winning the telco-cable competitive battle lies not in single services or even bundled services but in how well and how comprehensively providers can support and serve every technology need of the consumer home.