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CES Cover ageConnected Homes Will NeedMore BandwidthGet ready for another surge in bandwidth demand as consumers buy thenext generation of electronic devices.By Masha Zager ■ Broadband CommunitiesT he International CES al- ways offers a glimpse of Learn more about what’s driving consumer the digital home of the demand for bandwidth at the Broadband future – and a clue to the Communities Summit in Dallas. future of bandwidth de-mand. This year was no different, as theshow featured bandwidth-gobbling de- million units in 2013, up 136 percentvices ranging from the enormous (Ultra- from 2012. Service providers and build-HD TVs) to the minuscule (connected ing owners should take note becausewatches). phablets offer “more lifelike viewing ex- The gigantic trade show, held in periences” – which encourages consum-Las Vegas each January by the Con-sumer Electronics Association, hosts ers to watch yet more video on their mo-some 3,000 exhibitors, 20,000 product bile devices, both at home and on the go.launches and 150,000 attendees. To accommodate consumers who In reports about CES, caveats are want to watch video on all their phablets,always in order. Many big-name com- phones, tablets, ultrabooks and re-panies don’t attend the show or don’t frigerators (yes, refrigerators) at once,reveal their plans. Some products and manufacturers and service providers areservices rumored to be announced actu- collaborating to develop a new genera-ally aren’t. (This year, at the last minute, tion of set-top boxes or replacements forIntel’s “virtual MSO” offering failed to set-top boxes. For example, Comcastmaterialize.) Some products introduced will use ARRIS’s new multiscreen video The Huawei Ascend Mate was this year’s most gateway, based on Intel technology, towith great hoopla never appear in the talked-about phablet.marketplace; those that make it into bring XFINITY TV to multiple screens.stores often vanish quietly within the Time Warner Cable is taking a different phablet. Phablets were introduced atyear. Still others remain on the market route, teaming up with Roku to bring CES 2012 and were back in force thisbut never gain the traction their inven- its video to mobile devices via existingtors hope for. Good ideas founder on year, with Huawei’s Ascend Mate gar- Roku boxes.the shoals of content rights negotiation, nering much of the attention. Thoughtechnology and marketing challenges, phablets’ precise niche remains fuzzy and Ultra-HD TVsinvestor hesitancy, intellectual property their category name is unfortunate, they Now that consumers have finished re-disputes and sheer consumer orneriness. appear to be popular with consumers. placing their old standard-definition, It’s a wonder any offerings succeed – Research firm IHS iSuppli forecasts bulky televisions with high-definition,but some of this year’s crop certainly will. that phablet shipments will reach 60.4 flat TVs, the industry is ready to moveThis Is the Year of …the Phablet? About the AuthorOccupying the middle ground between Masha Zager is the editor of Broadband Communities. You can reach her at mashathe largest phones and the smallest tab- @bbcmag.com.lets is a new type of mobile device: the2 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | January/February 2013
CES Cover ageon to ultra-high-definition, curved TVs.A dozen or more TV manufacturersshowed Ultra-HD models (some flat, Ultra-HD televisions were the talk of CES. Offeringsome curved) at CES. The new 3840 x four times the resolution of full HD, they require2160 standard has roughly four timesthe pixel count of full high definition; 20 Mbps of bandwidth for streaming video.the chipsets support up to 60 framesper second, or double the normal rate.The sound is described as “lush,” and of In addition to garnering support be enormous (15 gigabytes on average).course, the screens are huge – the larg- from all the major TV manufactur- As this technology is adopted, providersest exceed 100 inches. Some models ers, Ultra HD is beginning to generate are likely to hear more complaints fromsupport 3D video in addition to 2D. a larger ecosystem. For example, LG is customers about speed limitations andSamsung says its curved screen “creates forging agreements with content pro- bandwidth caps.a panorama effect not possible with flat- viders worldwide. Device maker RED These new TVs also promise to in-panel TVs, offering a more immersive is planning to ship its REDRAY player crease bandwidth demand in other ways.viewing experience.” this spring, which will play Ultra-HD For example, Samsung’s F9500 OLED Overall, watching these televisions is content, both online and local. (Think TV allows two people to watch differ-more like being in a movie theater than ent HD content at the same time, on Blu-ray but better.)in a living room. the same screen. Samsung’s 3D glasses, RED is also partnering with Ode- There are a few drawbacks: a price which come with personal speakers built max on an Ultra-HD movie distribu-point designed to appeal only to hedge- in, provide separate stereo soundtracks tion platform that includes built-in toolsfund managers, a complete lack of avail- for each viewer. In addition, Stream for digital rights management, sales,able Ultra-HD content and an absence TV Networks demonstrated technologyof broadcast standards for Ultra-HD marketing and analytics. This platform, ODEMAX.COM, will give filmmakers, that enables 3D content to be viewed(and no guarantee that the TVs shown at comfortably without special glasses –CES will meet such standards once they production companies and independent distributors direct channel access to the long considered the holy grail of the 3Dare developed). So don’t look for many industry.Ultra-HD TVs to be sold this year. new cloud-enabled REDRAY players. Nevertheless, these hurdles can all Service providers and building own- Home Monitoringbe addressed over the next few years, ers beware: Even with the use of new and Controland an industry consensus seems to be data compression technologies, RED Home monitoring and control products,forming around Ultra HD as the Next files require 20 Mbps downstream capa- after hovering on the verge for years,Big Thing. Research firm Strategy Ana- bility (and the same amount upstream if seem to have broken through in the lastlytics forecasts a global installed base of consumers want to watch movies away year. Prices have fallen, major service10 million Ultra-HD TVs by 2016 and from home using devices such as Sling- providers and retailers have committed130 million by 2020. boxes). Ultra-HD movie files will also to the technology, and consumers (as well as small businesses) are showing plenty of interest. A few examples of the products and services shown at CES: • Global Caché’s iTach Flex, a smart endpoint that adds electrical devices to Wi-Fi or other networks. Infor- mation about temperature, power, security alarms and more can be sent over the Internet to inform a user about an event. For example, a text message can be sent in response to an open garage door or a water leak. • GreenWave Reality’s Connected Lighting Solution offers control over residential lighting with dim- mable, wireless LED and CFL bulbs through an IP-enabled home light- Samsung unveiled Ultra-HD TVs at CES. ing network, controllable from PCs, smartphones or handheld remotes. January/February 2013 | www.broadbandcommunities.com | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 3
CES Cover age• Lowe’s Iris home monitoring sys- ter heaters, sprinkler systems, win- that reminds homeowners to water tem, which was launched in 2012 dow blinds and network-connected their plants. Will connected home- and now has a raft of new products light bulbs to a pet door that tracks owners be utterly lost when the wire- and partners. Product demos ranged the comings and goings of five dif- line broadband goes down? Iris has from connected thermostats and wa- ferent pets and a moisture sensor that eventuality covered, too, with a Who You Gonna Call? Geek Squad! More gadgets mean more tech problems. More gadgets that talk to one another create more con- fusion about whose tech support line to call. According to research firm Parks Associates, a quarter of consumers who experience prob- lems related to networking call their broadband providers for as- sistance – even if the faulty gad- get came from some other source entirely. That’s why providers such as Comcast and CenturyLink have expanded their support services to include premium services that were once out of scope. Parks Associates estimates U.S. tech support rev- enues will exceed $8 billion in 2017. “Consumers want a solution that covers their support needs for all of their gadgets – comput- ers, tablets and smartphones; 72 percent of consumers on. There’s more need for remote support as more de- interested in technical support feel the service should vices are added and more connectivity among devices be able to fix every technical problem they experience,” is added.” says Patrice Samuels, a research analyst at Parks Associ- In the last year, Geek Squad has turned its attention ates. “As the boundaries separating digital devices blur, to multifamily housing communities, where its market- support services likewise will have to expand in order to ing channels include both service providers and prop- effectively resolve consumers’ support needs.” erty owners. Typically, a channel partner either buys One of the most popular consumer tech support Geek Squad services at wholesale and resells them or companies is Geek Squad, a company that launched in operates under a revenue-sharing agreement. Stan- 1994 with one geek, $200 and a bicycle and is now a dard bundles include support for up to five devices 20,000-person division of Best Buy. In addition to offer- per household. Bundles generally include PCs, tablets, ing remote and on-site services directly to consumers, smartphones, printers and game consoles, though any- Geek Squad partners with service providers, retailers, thing with an IP address could be eligible. Though resell- utility companies and others. ers can set the pricing, in at least some cases consumers Based on firsthand experience, Geek Squad agrees receive discounted prices. Some channel partners even with Parks Associates that the complexity of the digital provide tech support as a bulk service included in the home increases the need for tech support. Albert Af- rent. Either way, it’s a valued amenity and a differentiator flitto, the manager of strategic partnerships for Geek for property owners. Squad, says, “We’re seeing a lot of manufacturers that Afflitto says that prime candidates for Geek Squad built products they initially promoted as ‘grab and go’ services include student housing, senior living commu- and are now showing interest in Geek Squad doing the nities and urban developments. “Even kids who are tech installs. We’ve also worked with several VoIP providers savvy may be gathering more viruses and have more for consumers and small and midsized businesses who devices,” Afflitto explains, adding, “Senior housing may drop-ship equipment to their customers and then find see more activity because seniors are often reluctant to they need to support them more than they planned troubleshoot their own PCs.”4 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | January/February 2013
CES Cover age Verizon USB modem for backup.• Allure Energy’s EverSense 2.0, a home environment and energy manage- One new home management platform turns on ment platform that uses the owner’s the heat or air conditioning automatically when smartphone location sensor to man- age energy usage. When a resident the owner’s smartphone is headed home. leaves the house, EverSense turns down the heating or cooling. When the resident is on the way home, Ever- eral physical media (power line, coax, home broadband, this claim has been Sense automatically turns climate twisted pair, Ethernet cable and even unproven. However, the appearance at control back to the desired setting. fiber) will continue to be used for home CES of LTE gateways suggest that LTE• LG Electronics’ new line of appli- networks, along with such standards as will indeed become the standard for low- ances (refrigerator, washing ma- HomePlug, MoCA and HomePNA. end broadband. For example, ZyXEL’s chine, vacuum cleaner and oven) A new, more advanced home net- LTE5121 delivers 4G fixed broadband that consumers can manage by talk- working standard, G.hn, which can be Internet with home network connectiv- ing to their smartphones or clicking used for power line, coax, copper and ity options that include Wi-Fi, Gigabit TV remote controls. An LG spokes- plastic optical fiber networks, is still at Ethernet, VoIP ports and support for person explained, “They can start a an early stage of development. Although smart home services such as home auto- load of laundry while driving home G.hn chipsets have been certified and mation and monitoring. from work, tell their robotic cleaner were shown at CES, no devices are yet T-Mobile USA announced 4G Con- to vacuum the floor before company commercially available. nect, a program designed to make 4G arrives or view the refrigerator’s in- Managing bandwidth in home net- connectivity a standard, integrated and ventory of food items [before go- works has also become critical. When free feature on select notebooks, tablets ing shopping].” The refrigerator can a home network consisted of two PCs and ultrabooks. Consumers who pur- even be programmed to order food surfing the Web, management was sim- chase 4G Connect devices will be able automatically from a supermarket to access the Internet via T-Mobile’s 4G ple. Today, consumers use many devices when supplies are running low. The network with no extra equipment, an- and run many applications from a single refrigerator has an LCD display so nual contracts or commitments. Internet connection. Avoiding conten- its owner can watch a movie (or the Cloud media storage: Collectors of tion and optimizing performance (for Food Channel) while cooking. digital media struggle with storage of example, streaming a YouTube videoHome Networking without being interrupted by the video movies and music. If they store contentBandwidth delivered to a home or busi- game being played in the next room) re- locally, they must consume it locally. (Ifness is useless unless it can be distrib- quires intelligence in home routers. you’ve bought a movie, you might wantuted to user devices. Distributing band- One new intelligent router solution to watch it at a friend’s house or in a ho-width and managing connected devices is Qualcomm’s StreamBoost technol- tel room). Storing media in the cloudis the job of a home network, and home ogy, which enables broadband routers to poses other sorts of problems. At CES,networking technologies continue to manage and shape traffic by giving each manufacturer Dane-Elec showed a prod-improve, becoming faster, more reliable connected device and application the uct called my-Ditto that offers a hybridand more energy efficient with each suc- priority and bandwidth it requires for local and cloud storage solution – theceeding generation. optimal performance. At CES, Alien- best of both worlds, the company says. This year at CES, four industry alli- ware and D-Link demonstrated Stream- Connected gadgets: As a famousances shared a booth to demonstrate the Boost routers based on Qualcomm’s philosopher would have said if he hadcomplementarity of power line, wireless VIVE 802.11ac technology for gigabit- known about Facebook, the unrecordedand coax home networking standards class Wi-Fi. These routers will be avail- life is not worth living. Certainly, thewith one another and with DLNA (the able this spring. unrecorded snowboard run is not worthprotocol that lets devices on a network snowboarding. Resort owners will havediscover one another easily). Wi-Fi … And More to beef up their broadband connectionsnetworking technology is most visible LTE for fixed broadband: Wireless to accommodate the latest generationto consumers, and home control sen- providers building LTE mobile networks of snow goggles, such as Liquid Image’ssors generally use low-power wireless have promised that LTE will serve as a APEX HD+, which has full HD record-standards such as ZigBee and Z-Wave. lower-cost, higher-performance substi- ing, built-in Wi-Fi and a rotating cam-However, in-home wireless still has its tute for DSL in rural areas where “true era lens. Wireless capabilities includelimitations, and stationary devices are broadband” is economically challenging. live streaming to an iOS or Androidusually best connected with wires. Be- Because the LTE rollout began in urban device, file playback, remote control andcause home construction varies, sev- areas, where consumers don’t need it for adjustment of camera settings. January/February 2013 | www.broadbandcommunities.com | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 5
CES Cover age whole-home DVR and a gadget for up- loading content via the Internet to a remote device. The new Hopper with Sling lets customers watch live and re- corded television anywhere on Internet- connected tablets, smartphones and PCs as well as move recorded television to an iPad for viewing without an Internet con- nection. The new offering was reportedly slated to receive CNET’s “Best of CES” award until CNET’s parent company, CBS, which is in litigation with DISH over the Hopper’s commercial-skipping abilities, put the kibosh on that plan. HealthSpot: The new telemedicine service HealthSpot generated excitement at CES. The HealthSpot Station is a pri-The Pebble Watch has customizable watchfaces and connects to the Internet through smartphones. vate, walk-in kiosk that offers live access to board-certified doctors via high-def- If you thought cellphones had made nected applications and notifications. inition videoconferencing and interac-watches unnecessary, wait till you see Pebble connects to iPhone and Android tive digital medical devices. When lo-the Pebble Watch, which was crowd- smartphones using Bluetooth, alerting cated in pharmacies, office buildings,financed through Kickstarter in 2012 wearers with a silent vibration to incom- schools and other public spaces, theand made its debut at CES 2013. The ing calls, emails and messages. kiosks promise to make possible doctorwatch is infinitely customizable and has DISH Hopper with Sling: DISH visits that are convenient, quick and de-downloadable watchfaces, Internet-con- combined two favorite products – a void of downtime and hassle. v6 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | January/February 2013