HomeRF partner Motorola releases cable modem with built-in Ethernet and 802.11b wireless: one of the HomeRF Working Group's main contentions on traction was that as soon as they could get cable boxes (cable modems and/or cable set-top service boxes) with built-in HomeRF installed in people's homes through partnerships with cable companies, they would see widespread adoption. Motorola was (and perhaps still is) to be the agent of that insertion. Today's announcement at a German cable operator show makes it clear that Wi-Fi is the way to go.
The foundation of HomeRF's alternative technology was that it was designed to integrate media as part of the protocol itself, rather than as a set of add-on protocols as with the 802.11 family. 802.11 is plain old Ethernet over wireless with plug-ins; HomeRF is a ground-up telephony, multimedia, and data spec.
As with the Betamax vs. VHS battle, however, the market spoke because Wi-Fi delivered enough, soon enough. HomeRF lagged in speed, needing to wait for a late-2000 FCC decision before they could start to make 10 Mbps gear. By the time they hit their stride in mid-2001, Wi-Fi was everywhere.
The argument to cable operators for HomeRF is pretty good, though: integrate telephony, cable TV, and data in a single signal to a consumer's home, and a Motorola box will split it out and Siemens chips and handsets will handle the telephone side, while Proxim adapters will deal with the computers and data appliances. All of this interaction would happen with quality of service scheduling over HomeRF. Cable companies would get into the dial-tone business, and also into the hardware business, making a healthy margin selling Proxim and Siemens gear to consumers.
Cable companies never opted for these services, however, and Wi-Fi's ancillary specifications have caught up with HomeRF. The built-in advantages to HomeRF will soon all be ratified as 802.11 family specs: quality of service (ensuring voice over IP and multimedia streaming priority), primarily. Also, with 802.11b about to be subsumed into 802.11g, the speed bump to 22 Mbps or more nails the lid on the coffin as HomeRF 3.0 (which should be 20Mbps+) is nowhere in sight.
The HomeRF Working Group was certainly counting on more synergy happening sooner, so that average consumers, not early adopters and techies, would wind up with wireless HomeRF gear. They never truly saw themselves in competition with Wi-Fi, which they often labeled an enterprise/business spec that made its way into the home.
Motorola's cable modem announcement today essentially threads the last needle needed to sew up the market for Wi-Fi. The last glimmer of potential for HomeRF is now gone.
News for 4/25/2002
NTT Communications launches 200 hotspots in Japan, and 1,000 by year's end: offering both 802.11a and 802.11b service, NTT may also be bringing in substantial upstream bandwidth to surfing locations. The article notes fiber, DSL, and fixed wireless. Service will cost a flat $12.30 per month or so.
Kevin Werbach notes Wi-Fi sales stun spectrum experts: at an Apsen Institute conference, Kevin says that he stunned the audience, a savvy group of lobbyists, economists, laywers, and politicians, by noting Wi-Fi card sales are 1.5 million units per month. It's fun to see how the perception of change filters through the folks who think they control it.