The End of Inside Wiring?

March 25, 2013
Ron Hendrickson Here's a fun idea: What if we could do away with all the cabling in the customer's house? Inside wiring has long been a pain in cable operators' collective necks. It consumes lots of installer time, is subject to craft issues, and as a rul...

By Ron Hendrickson

Here's a fun idea: What if we could do away with all the cabling in the customer's house?

Inside wiring has long been a pain in cable operators' collective necks. It consumes lots of installer time, is subject to craft issues, and as a rule is the most problematic part of the plant in terms of ingress and signal degradation. Subscribers don't like it much, either - no one wants to live in a rat's nest of coax, USB and Ethernet cables. So it would be really neat to get away from all these downsides.

What if cable operators could mount a box on the outside of the customer premises that would then distribute signal to all the subscriber's devices in the house wirelessly? It seems like it should be possible - many of the pieces are already in place.

We already have multifunction WiFi gateways and modems with built-in wireless routers and EMTAs. We can already move video to tablets and smartphones wirelessly. We can already do network powering (albeit not usually 110 VAC). Provisioning in a wireless environment is well under control. And faster wireless standards are coming down the pike, including the long-awaited Super WiFi and IEEE 802.11ad.

Granted, the idea has some hitches. Mainly, such a box does not currently exist. Nor would it be the best choice for every subscriber's setup. Powering, access (both data and physical security) and environmental protection would have to be addressed. It would require that the sub own fairly smart devices. Throughput might take a hit. Sometimes wireless is just plain buggy. And a million other things.

But if the tech issues were worked out, it could be a gold mine.

Subs would love it, particularly early adopters and "gold-plated" triple-play subscribers with big homes. No rat's nest. No installer tromping around the house in muddy boots, drilling holes and stapling wires everywhere. Ideally, no 4-hour installation window, either: If the installer does all his work outside, the sub need not even be home; he could just be e-mailed a phone number and a link to a web site from which to self-provision all his devices at his leisure.

Cable ops would love it, too. It would save countless hours of installer time, as well as bundles of materials and CPE. And the marketers would be ecstatic: "No unsightly wires! Modern wireless technology! No waiting around for the installer to show up! Order yours NOW!"

It would nearly be a license to coin money.

Ron Hendrickson is BTR's managing editor. Reach him at [email protected].

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