Introducing Home Networks

Network connection was initially accomplished on a single-device basis: one telephone was connected to a line, one television connected to a cable, one computer connected to the Internet.

And where multiple devices needed to connect to the same network, conflicts occurred: if one person was on the line, another could not make a call; if you wanted to send a fax, you must terminate your phone call; if you wanted to place a phone call, you had to disconnect from the Internet.

When it came to the Internet, especially, it became an issue as many households rapidly became multiple-computer households. Hence, one of the first benefits of home networks was to enable multiple devices (computers) to have internet access while still leaving the phone line available for voice communications.

Meanwhile, on the providers' side, companies wished to expand their service offerings without having to run additional lines: cable television companies wanted to offer normal programming, video on demand, cable internet access, and VOIP access, which required the resident's home to be networked.

The home network the authors describe is largely a wired network - with a gateway router connecting to many wired devices. They also conceive of the network as having a main hub as well as a number of hubs in other locations, and begin to conceive of a wireless LAN station to cover certain areas.

They look into a number of proposed standards for home networking, and conclude that Ethernet will become the standard for wired networking, and some standard with a number rather than a name would become the standard for wireless. But again, which alternative wins is largely moot.

The main obstacle that the authors saw was in pricing the home network for the consumer market. However, this has largely been solved by wireless, and a wireless broadband router is well within the means of most consumers.

Another obstacle, still true today, was a lack of a global agreement in transmission protocols, such that various device manufacturers could develop devices that suit a single protocol, and that protocol is standard for large numbers of consumers.

In addition to transmission protocols, security is also an issue: a device must not only transmit in a way that a router can receive the transmissions, but also in a method that is secured from unauthorized monitoring.

The authors list some of the "key players" and their technologies, and mull over the advantages and disadvantages, but this is perishable information.