Motorola Uses New Wi-Fi Box for Pay-TV & OTT Video in the Home

There’s another possibility for “no new wires“ networking besides HomePlug, MoCA and HomeGrid. And, except for wireline Ethernet, it’s the oldest home networking of them all: Wi-Fi.

STB maker Motorola and chipmaker Quantenna Communications want to make Wi-Fi the standard in homes for delivering pay-TV and OTT videos.

An interview with Motorola senior product manager Gabriel Rubinsky and excerpts from Faultline has provided new information.

Motorola Brings Wi-Fi to Pay-TV
Motorola’s VAP 2400 is a Wi-Fi video bridge for home use that has 4×4 MIMO chips from Quantenna Communications. Motorola says the VAP 2400 overcomes the two biggest drawbacks for Wi-Fi when it comes to transmitting pay-TV video compared to wireline home networking. There are:

  • Guaranteed quality-of-service (QoS)
  • Security, specifically piracy prevention

Connected to broadband via a modem (DSL, DOCSIS or fiber) or a multi-port router, it transmits videos, including 3D or HD, to VAP 2400s in other rooms. Each VAP 2400 comes with either one or four Ethernet ports that are connected by Ethernet cables to up to four set-top boxes, smart TVs, Blu-ray players, smart TV adapters, gaming consoles and the like.

The Quantenna chips use standard Wi-Fi technology and a “brute force“ approach to take the full MIMO 802.11n standard. This ensures virtually zero packet loss, regardless of the type of data sent.

The Quantenna chips use beam forming to make the connection. It says it has the only full specification 802n chipset that includes 4×4 MIMO, dynamic digital beam forming, mesh networking and channel monitoring and optimization. It says it supports multiple concurrent video streams of ultra-low-latency H.264 up to Blu-ray quality video, across 200-foot distances.

It can also be used for applications such as online bi-directional video game controllers and can operate in point-to-multipoint mode.

Motorola says the VAP 2400 is point-to-multipoint and can reach any TV in the home.

The initial market focus is on the tier 1 pay-TV service providers to use VAP 2400s for delivering IPTV to home devices like pay-TV STBs. The consumer can install it. Consumers only need to push one button to get two VAP 2400s to communicate – or at least that’s what Motorola is promising.

To ensure flicker-free video on the TV, the VAP 2400s give priority to IPTV signals, ramping down the speeds of other data like VoIP and broadband. The capacity of the VAP 2400s is 600 Mbps. Pay-TV videos take 6 Mbps in the States and from 6 to 12 Mbps in Europe. Consequently, there should be plenty of bandwidth, even with four or more Internet-connected devices using video.

Motorola said the 4X4 MIMO beam-forming antenna can be used over a distance of 160 feet and through nine walls. Motorola said it is the first reliable, self-install Wi-Fi product with near-zero packet loss.

Four standards-based technologies are used to ensure high-level, flicker- and artifact-free video:

  • IEEE 802.1p to give IPTV signals first priority.
  • IEEE 802.1q to separate and manage the data, VoIP and IPTV streams.
  • The Wi-Fi Alliance standard Wi-Fi Multi Media, also know as WMM.
  • Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) that is used on IP networks to establish multicast group memberships.

For security it uses WPA2, which Motorola says is the most advanced form of Wi-Fi security and will prevent neighbors from peeping in.

The VAP 2400 includes the industry-standard TR069 technology for remote management, including diagnostics and upgrades.

Motorola Says It’s Secure and Flicker-Free
A retail launch will occur, perhaps late in 2011. Consumers could buy VAP 2400s to install quality-assured and secure Wi-Fi for their Internet-connected gear like TVs, Blu-ray players and such.

Tablets and portable PCs, which don’t have the 4X4 MIMO technology, can still access the Web via the VAP 2400’s standard Wi-Fi.

Assuming the VAP 2400 sells well, Motorola, which has almost 50% of the US market for STBs and modems for DSL, DOCSIS and fiber, could put wireless-video capability into everything it builds for the home.

Shipments are expected to begin Q3 2011, perhaps as early as July. Retail prices were not announced.

Motorola says right up front and very strongly that the wireless bridge is not intended to replace MoCA, HPNA, HomePlug and Ethernet. However, it could, in many cases, be used by the pay-TV providers instead of them for applications like whole-home DVRs.

Consumers, of course, would want it now, assuming it works as promised. Millions of smart TVs are being sold to consumers who get it home and realize they don’t know how to connect it to the Internet to get Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and other OTT video services. Many struggle to install and configure Wi-Fi only to find that the video is not always top-quality. Hiring an installer usually results in a recommendation to install wireline Ethernet, a pricey and messy proposition. It could be far easier and less expensive to buy and install a pair of VAP 2400s, which would also provide high-speeds to their gaming consoles, smart TV adapters and Blu-ray players.

The key to this happening will be an end-user installation process with no truck rolls, zero video artifacts and piracy-proof security, which led both the major US IPTV suppliers, Verizon with MoCA and AT&T with HPNA, to insist on wired connections in the first place.

It’s going to be a great year for home networking…

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