Chano Gomez, director of business development, Lantiq North America
G.hn, the ITU's standard for wireline home networking over coaxial cable, phone lines and electrical wiring, has been described by its fans as home networking's sliced bread, the invention that will drive home networks onto every service provider's shelf and into every residential home entertainment system. It's also been panned as a boondoggle, an idea that's come to market too late and will have minimal impact other than to confuse things.
Chano Gomez is director of business development with Lantiq North America, a company already deploying G.hn chips. He also co-chairs the marketing working group of the HomeGrid Forum, an organization pushing the interoperable benefits of G.hn. Clearly on the sliced bread side of the equation, he sat down recently to espouse his views and answer criticisms with FierceCable Editor Jim Barthold.
FierceCable: The biggest gripe I've heard about G.hn is that it's too late to market and that a unified standard isn't needed because the service providers have already settled on their de facto standards using their conduit of choice: coax, phone line or electrical. How do you respond to that?
Gomez: A lot of service providers disagree. They wanted to know why they have to choose between technologies. They wanted a single technology that can do it all without having to have different chips.
FierceCable: But that doesn't really work with some of the bigger players. Cable and telco providers like Verizon, especially, are committed to MoCA. Why would they want to do anything that would disrupt their installed base?
Gomez: There will be markets which will not be fast adopters of G.hn. Whenever I talk with Verizon they're happy with MoCA. But AT&T has a large home network footprint for their U-verse service and they have expressed their intention to migrate to G.hn. Some cable companies are already deploying MoCA; some are not. The economies of G.hn make it more attractive because they have more suppliers and more competition.
FierceCable: Talk for a minute about those economies and why an operator that's already committed to a de facto home networking technology would want to go in another direction.
Gomez: These (incumbent) technologies have not been developed in an open standards process. They've usually been created by one company that usually creates an alliance around the technology to present it as a standard. In practice the company that develops the technology controls the patents and 95 percent market share. It was very difficult for new startups to get into the HomePlug industry or the MoCA market because there was an entrenched supplier with most of the market share. With G.hn it's different. There is no incumbent player, no company that controls all the IP or all the patents and the market is larger.
FierceCable: Still, it means that a vendor that's been building a box with a MoCA chip or a HomePlug chip will have to move over to develop a product for a G.hn chip. Why bother if there's a market there already? And what's in it for the chipmakers?
Gomez: A vendor can make a G.hn chip and sell to different markets around the world so the initial market looks bigger and the return on investment looks smarter. You have more companies getting into it. Having all those suppliers eventually will create more competition and drive down prices faster. You don't see that with the other technologies because the barriers to entry are too higher.
FierceCable: In a way, though, G.hn by its very foundation of PHY and MAC layers is essentially shutting out the incumbent de facto home networking standards. Do you build in some form of backward compatibility to overcome this?
Gomez: To put in backward compatibility would have created a Frankenstein standard, a monster standard that would be too expensive. We chose to create a core technology that is not MoCA, not HomePlug, not homePNA but is something we can all live with. That's G.hn.
FierceCable: On that same tack, couldn't vendors just build a multipurpose unit that has existing MoCA and HomePlug and homePNA chips built in?
Gomez: It would be three times as expensive because the fundamental technologies behind the chips are different. Nobody would build it. You don't see a product in the market today that has a homePNA interface and a MoCA interface because it's too expensive. G.hn came in to try to solve this with an architecture that has the same physical layer. The premise was to make it easy for silicon vendors to design one single chip that can do it all.
FierceCable: So who's going to deploy G.hn and how quickly are they going to do it--given that there are already home networking technologies out there to deploy?
Gomez: I think it's going to be a gradual adoption. There will be markets where adoption rates will be faster and others that will be slower. Eventually, though, the G.hn chips will be cheaper and companies deploying different technologies today will see that G.hn is attractive to them.