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Cable Technology Feature Article

March 12, 2013

Comcast Invests to Spur Massive Growth in Broadband Home Gateways

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

As home gateways become an increasingly important aspect of broadband infrastructure architecture within residences, embedded functionality is expanding to include everything from Wi-Fi to IP-based multiscreen video support. The Internet Systems Consortium (ISC), with a grant from Comcast (News - Alert), has launched the Open Home Gateway Forum (OHGF), dedicated to using open-source software to further the development of this critical piece of CPE, better enabling applications development to bolster next-generation revenue streams for operators and ISPs.

The timing is ripe for the forum launch. Global shipments of multimedia home gateways (MHG) are expected to rise by a factor of more than 100 from through 2015, according to IHS Screen Digest. Global MHG shipments are set to climb to 9.6 million units in 2015 and 2016 – up from just 90,000 in 2011.

"The edge device in homes is growing in function and importance," said Kannan Ayyar, president of ISC. "It must meet the needs of the consumer as well as the service provider. A home gateway needs to offer security, choice, speed and flexibility. We are confident that the new devices enabled by the work of the Open Home Gateway (News - Alert) Forum will be of tremendous value to Internet service customers as well as to their service providers."

The OHGF brings together ISPs, vendors and Internet development organizations.

"Comcast is pleased that the Open Home Gateway Forum is one of the first programs underwritten with the new Comcast Technology Research & Development Fund," said Jason Livingood, vice president of Internet and communications engineering at Comcast. "We think this sort of open source development can make a meaningful difference in home networks and we're committed to doing what we can to make the Forum a success."

The main driver for gateway growth is multiscreen video, HIS Screen Digest said, as pay-TV operators seek to unify the delivery of different forms of video content to all types of devices in homes, including media tablets and smartphones.

"A decade ago, set-top boxes (STB) served as the bridge from analogue to digital broadcasting," said Daniel Simmons, senior principal analyst at IHS (News - Alert) and lead author of the report. "Today, MHGs are playing a similar role, acting as the bridge between broadcast and Internet Protocol (IP) video distribution. With MHGs, cable and satellite operators can utilize the efficiency of broadcast television to provide advanced services and content to all kinds of IP-connectable devices, including today's increasingly popular mobile devices."

The increasing integration of Wi-Fi home networking within MHGs is aimed at helping to support multiscreen video in the home. Wi-Fi penetration in MHGs is forecast to grow to 73 percent of units shipped by 2016 – up from just 18 percent in 2012.

Beyond Wi-Fi, some of the major services include gigabit broadband, transcoding, large applications, graphics processors, content storage and edge caching.

Simmons added, "The capabilities of the MHG, and in particular its requirement to establish a ubiquitous whole home network, position pay-TV operators to offer a range on additional services that could elevate them above being simple purveyors of media access. Home automation and security, as well as smart energy and e-health services could all be supported by the MHG and offer additional revenue opportunities."

Edited by Braden Becker

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