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DirecTV looks into Wi-Fi, networks

Posted: 02 Feb 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Wi-Fi? STB? home network? IPTV?

DirecTV is trying out versions of Wi-Fi and aims to test wired links based on the ITU standard. Earlier this week, the company debuted the first satellite TV STBs to use the home networking technology of the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA), which to date has mainly been used in STBs for Verizon's Fios IPTV service.

DirecTV's efforts parallel those of many OEMs in the evolving sector of home networking where new technology options are still emerging. About 18 months ago DirecTV decided it wanted to roll out set-tops supporting multi-room digital video recording and chose MoCA.

"Back then the pickings were fewit was basically MoCA or HomePNA," said Henry Derovanessian, VP of set top engineering at DirecTV. "We've invested heavily in MoCA, in part because it's reliable with Verizon's service delivering as many MoCA set-tops as they have," he added.

Along the way, DirecTV discontinued powerline adapters based on technology from the HomePlug Powerline Alliance it used to offer. But the company is still exploring new options. "We are keeping a close eye on the evolution of and wireless," said Derovanessian.

"802.11n and peripheral technologies are in the core of what we're looking at in wireless," he said. "There are quite a lot of antenna techniques out there extending .11n in range and quality-of-service," he added.

However "nothing I have seen so far shows we are at a point of wireless maturity" for carrying premium satellite TV over a home network, he said. "Wireless and are very much in their infancy and in R&D stages, and don't know when we'd be ready to talk about productization," he added.

Wired chips using the standard are expected to sample this summer, according to Matt Theall, president of the Home Grid Forum promoting the standard. Coppergate, acquired by Sigma Designs in October is expected to be one of the first companies to sample parts.

"The PHY and architecture portions of the [] specification were approved last year," said Theall in an email exchange. "The DLL and Coexistence mechanism ( have now both been [agreed on] and with this consent the specification is essentially done," he added.

"I hear it will be any day we'll get our hands on [ samples], but I haven't seen them yet and we want to see them," said Derovanessian.

In the meantime, DirecTV is content with MoCA chipsets from Entropic Communications. It was picked more than a year ago when it was effectively the only MoCA vendor, though others including Broadcom have jumped into the market since then.

Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Samsung and Verizon are among DirecTV's partners in the RVU Alliance which develops and maintains a protocol for sharing user interface data and video over a home network. The protocol is used in DirecTV's MoCA STBs, and Broadcom showed it at the Consumer Electronics Show in an embedded device for TV sets.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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