Demand Your 57Mbps

By Ed Sutherland

November 04, 2004

A new report says that in the future, home networks will have such intense use that the measly 3Mbps throughput average found today will barely hold up.

By 2009, fueled by a skyrocketing increase in home wireless networks, consumers will require 57 Mbps for Internet connection speed -- up from today's 3 Mbps -- to meet the demands of an ever-growing collection of always-on home media devices.

The findings come in today's report from JupiterResearch (which is owned by the parent company of this site) and its first-ever look into home wireless bandwidth demands. Entitled "A Portrait of the Wireless Home in 2009," the study finds a shift toward wireless home networks and a growing reliance on digital media.

For tech-savvy consumers, the bandwidth requirement will likely be even higher, as much as 84 Mbps.

Products that will include Internet access, along with a shift from traditional methods of distributing media, are given as prime reasons for the dramatic new numbers.

"The number of consumer electronics devices using a wireless network in the home could explode over the next five years, driving bandwidth requirements beyond today's offerings," said Julie Ask, analyst and research director at JupiterResearch.

The vehicle driving this increased need for speed is the wireless home network. Seen initially as a novelty just a year or two ago, the number of home networks will mushroom from 7.5 million today to more than 34 million by 2009.

Home networks are quickly changing from being purely a method of sharing an Internet connection and some occasional data files to the backbone of a residential media center.

"More media is on the computer that people want to listen to on the stereo or view on the TV," Ask says. Video shared via home wireless networks will benefit greatly from increased bandwidth.

Consumer electronics companies need to recognize this growing trend, according to the report.

"To exploit this trend, consumer electronics manufacturers will increasingly need to conceive of their products as always-on nodes in a wireless network," said David Schatsky, senior vice president of research at JupiterResearch.

Wireless devices that remain always connected to the Internet include televisions, satellite receivers and more. The popular TiVo digital video recorder device includes a home networking features, Ask says.

"Almost all wireless networking vendors" recognize this trend, according to Ask. The analyst points to Apple's Airport Express, media adapters from Netgear and Linksys, along with Microsoft's Media Center.

Consumers are undergoing a paradigm shift away from traditionally separate devices, such as a PC and stereo and television to "centralized storage, management and synchronization of media centers," according to the report.

In order to address this expected demand for more wireless home networks and greater wireless bandwidth, vendors will need to think beyond simply linking multiple PCs to quality of service issues important for voice and video, says Ask.

The results of the survey were not unexpected, and may help some sectors of the Wi-Fi market. A future growth of demand for a broader Wi-Fi 'pipe' will spur work toward completion of the proposed high-speed 802.11n standard, as well as give a boost to 54Mbps data-rated 802.11a and 802.11g networks.

"Vendors will evolve," says Ask. Look for consumers to "upgrade from existing 802.11b networks to combinations of g and a," she says. She thinks a 57Mbps wireless future will be the death of 802.11b. The 11 Mbps Wi-Fi standard will become the choke point of a faster wireless home network.

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