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Ethernet AV – Ethernet Home Invasion

Ethernet conquers all. The IEEE has begun the standardization process for Ethernet AV, a set of modifications to existing Ethernet specs designed to make the protocol bulletproof for transmitting streaming audio and video.

Ethernet is by design a best-effort protocol. If a particular link is oversubscribed, someone’s bits will slide onto the floor (worst case) or experience erratic delays (best case). 802.1p allows traffic to be bucketized into 8 classes of service, but provides no mechanism to guarantee delivery for traffic within a given class. The easiest way to deal with this problem is to have a pipe much bigger than the data going through it. Unfortunately this isn’t a viable solution when you are dealing with multiple 15Mb/s HD streams over VDSL (100Mb/s best case) or WiFi.

Given the explosion of media that will crisscross into and through the digital home of the future, modifications to the Ethernet standard are necessary to ensure it retains it’s rightful place at the top of the data protocol pyramid.

A presentation authored by a Broadcom (BRCM) employee outlines the goals of the project and the technical changes needed to realize them. Check it out here. Nothing revolutionary here, but a number of evolutionary changes are underway.

Interesting things happen when you combine the concepts of Ethernet AV with Power over Ethernet (PoE). One can envision a future where low-power speakers, digital picture frames, telephones, videophones (ok I’m stretching here), have a single RJ-45 wall connection for power and a robust data link.

Work is still needed at higher layers to provide network management of the home network as it becomes more mission critical (god forbid my DVR doesn’t record Pro Cycling) and more complex. It isn’t clear to me what needs to be done here or who will do it, but it’s going to be a big problem.

Discussion

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  1. “Unfortunately this isn’t a viable solution when you are dealing with multiple 15Mb/s HD streams over VDSL (100Mb/s best case) or WiFi.”

    http://www.divx.com/hd/

    “What is the bitrate for DivX HD videos?
    The DivX encoder is flexible, allowing you to specify options that meet your needs based on balancing quality vs encoding time and quality vs. data rate. Generally speaking, good quality 720p DivX HD requires a bitrate of around 3.5-4Mbps (average).”

    Thing is, DVD is about 4Mbps encoded with MPEG2, encoding has gotten better and HD DVDs could be encoded in a similar bit rate at MPEG4 or DIVX. There’s no benefit going beyond that due to the limit of a typical HD TV (1024×768 is common) and the limit of pixels in the eye.
    So in the home 3-4 Mbps will likely be a plateau.

    My view is ISPs will be investing in infrastructure, YouTube etc. but home networking? Nah.

    Posted by BlindMan | April 27, 2007, 4:15 PM
  2. BlindMan

    “My view is ISPs will be investing in infrastructure, YouTube etc. but home networking? Nah.”

    As I wrote in A Guide to SOHO Gateway Processors: “When a service provider sells IP-based services, it removes the demarcation of responsibility between its WAN and the customer’s LAN. To ensure customer satisfaction, the company must take responsibility for the network all the way to the set-top box or the POTS port—the points where the customer “consumes” the video and telephone service.” So, while it seem anachronistic for a provider to worry about “inside wiring,” if they don’t worry about it, their newfound IPTV (or what have you) customer may not end up with a positive experience otherwise.

    JB

    Posted by Joe | April 27, 2007, 5:25 PM
  3. “To ensure customer satisfaction, the company must take responsibility for the network all the way to the set-top box or the POTS port—the points where the customer “consumes” the video and telephone service.”

    But is there a problem there that needs to be fixed? Who would buy a solution to a problem they don’t have?

    Posted by BlindMan | April 28, 2007, 4:32 AM
  4. As much as the carriers love the idea of getting their fingers into managing the home network I don’t see it happening.

    Posted by Andrew Schmitt | April 28, 2007, 9:53 AM
  5. Andrew, carriers do not have to manage the home network. Suffice for them, and other vendors, to sell residential PFTP (powered from the plug) multi media wall plugs. And sell home CPEs. Surely, demarcation between home and provider network, is not at home. It is curbed in the floor, etc. May all users get FTTH with ability to purchase home commodities for the fiber, to enable all multi medias, such as AV, home automation, browsing, telephony, etc. Thus empowering people, in the 21 century, on the new fiber infrastructures.

    Posted by Udi Ohr | April 29, 2007, 11:46 AM
  6. Huh?

    Posted by Andrew Schmitt | April 29, 2007, 6:14 PM