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Work on Home Networking Progressed at Geneva Event
A workshop on home networking will move standardization work in the area to a crucial new stage according to participants. The event held by ITU in Geneva 13-14 October followed a similar 2004 ITU-T Study Group 9 Tokyo workshop, and closed with agreement on how to move forward in a number of key areas. Meeting concurrently was the Home Networking-Joint Coordination Activity (HN-JCA), a group of ITU-T experts aiming to coordinate standardization effort on home networking across ITU-T Study Groups.

Home networking is the linking of all types of electronic devices for applications such as entertainment, telecommunication, home automation systems and telemetry (remote control and monitoring systems), see below for the official ITU definition. It has become an increasingly important topic for standardizers, partly because of the disparate nature of the items to be networked and partly because of market pressure. US organization CTAM (Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing), estimates that 40 percent of broadband customers want to share audio over the home network and 36 percent want to share video.

One of the key conclusions of the workshop is that there needs to be better collaboration between the various groups involved in the work. Ralph W. Brown, Chief Technology Officer, CableLabs and presenter at the event: “Through better coordination and closer working relationship, we can avoid the proliferation of incompatible standards.” It is critical for ITU to facilitate working relationships and open the door to referencing the specifications of other organizations from international standards it was agreed. To this end, Reinhard Scholl, Deputy to the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau gave a presentation highlighting the various ways that ITU can accommodate the work of other bodies. Participants welcomed the degree of flexibility offered by ITU.

One option outlined by Scholl and discussed as a possible next step is the formation of an ITU-T Focus Group to work on some of the technical issues. The Focus Group concept allows urgent standardization needs that are not addressed within existing ITU T structure to be addressed quickly and with the minimum of red-tape. Currently a group, the Home Networking-Joint Coordination Activity (HN-JCA), exists to harmonize work going on across ITU-T Study Groups but its mandate does not extend to technical work.

The workshop identified future areas of study as being a common network architecture and service requirements, with the transport media and service layers separated in a similar way to the next generation networks (NGN) concept. Given this need for a common architecture the HN-JCA agreed to setup a taskforce between ITU-T SGs 9, 13, 15 and 16 to develop a network independent and service independent architecture for home networking. Marco Carugi, leader of Working Group 1 in the Focus Group on NGN (FGNGN) said: "The home networking subject has a lot of technical aspects in common with the more general subject of NGN, in the areas of services, architecture and protocols/implementations. Examples of commonalities …include open service architectures and location-independent network capabilities, metadata and content adaptation to access network capabilities, end-to-end QoS delivery (agnostic to transport network technologies)."

End-to-end QoS was another area identified as fundamental to the success of commercial applications in home networking. It was agreed by the HN-JCA that an additional task force be set up between SGs 9 and 12 to look at these issues. Some work is already underway in ITU-T’s Study Group 12. Security was also highlighted, as was the need to develop and harmonize a home gateway for e-health devices.

Additionally it was agreed that the broadening of the scope of the HN-JCA to include co-operation with external bodies involved in the field of home networking standardization be recommended to TSAG (the group that administers it). HN-JCA seeks to identify what exactly needs to be standardized in the field and aims to produce a roadmap outlining this activity. A summit of the forums and SDOs working in the area was suggested by some as one way forward. One representative of two forums in attendance, Toby Nixon, chairman of the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) forum, and also closely linked with the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) presented an overview of the activities of both of these forums, and indicated his interest in coordinating with standards bodies in the future.

The harmonization and continuation of ITU work on digital rights management (DRM) was identified as a very important factor, and a big challenge. Also attention was drawn to the need for the allocation of UHF frequencies for WiFi systems, which experts said needs to be urgently addressed before the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) to be held in Geneva, 2007.

Participants agreed that one issue to be addressed was the different terminology used by the numerous players in the field to describe the same thing. Harmonization here would avoid confusion, save time and could well highlight that different organizations approaches were similar - something that might not have been clear where jargon use hadn’t been harmonized.

Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) was also a topic discussed. The increased use of broadband services has led to the development of a number of different wireless (eg WLAN and DECT) and wireline technologies (eg LAN as well as technologies designed to exploit existing telephone extension and power distribution wiring) to interconnect a variety of in-home electronic and electrical equipment. And, these techniques introduce many new EMC issues. According to chairman Roberto Pomponi work is already underway in Study Group 5 to create standards that relate to the EMC, resistibility and safety issues in home networks. Standardization will help to create safe interworking between the various technologies.

Also in ITU-T, Study Group 9 has already approved three Recommendations in the field. A current focus is a new Recommendation that will specify ways to bridge conditional access systems (that ensure payment in pay TV for example) to digital rights management (DRM) systems, an important step toward smooth operation of fully integrated home networking. Study Group 15 has included the requirements of home networking in their mandate. Other Study Groups, such as Study Group 6, 13, 16 and 17 have also some work concerning home networking. (See table below for existing ITU-T Recommendations).

The high quality and breadth of the contributions resulted in a wealth of material much of which is not available anywhere else in the world, according to the event’s steering committee chair Charlie Sandbank. Because of time constraints not all this material could be presented at the workshop but it is now available, including the key conclusions, at the website.

ITU’s agreed definition for home networking: “…the collection of elements that process, manage, transport, and store information, enabling the connection and integration of multiple computing, control, monitoring, and communication devices in the home.”

Recommendation Number Title Responsible Study Group
J.160 Architectural framework for the delivery of time-critical services over cable television networks using cable modems SG 9
J.179 IP Cablecom support for multimedia SG 9
J.182 Parameter sets for analogue interface specifications for the interconnection of set-top boxes and presentation devices in the home SG 9
J.190 Architecture of MediaHomeNet that supports cable based services SG 9
J.192 A residential gateway to support the delivery of cable data services SG 9
J.200 Worlwide common core- Application environment for digital interactive television services SG 9
J.201 Harmonization of declarative content format for interactive TV applications SG 9
J.202 Harmonization of procedural content formats for interactive TV applications SG 9
G.9951
(ex G.989.1)*
Phoneline networking transceivers - Foundation SG 15
G.9952
(ex G.989.2)*
Phoneline networking transceivers - Payload format and link layer requirements SG 15
G.9953
(ex G.989.3)*
Phoneline networking transceivers - Isolation function SG 15
G.9954 Phoneline networking transceivers - Enhanced physical, media access, and link layer specifications SG 15
H.610 FS-VDSL – System architecture and customer premises equipment SG 16
H.611 FS-VDSL – Operations, Administration, Maintenance and Provision aspects SG 16
H.saarch End-t-end open service architecture SG 16
X.homesec-1 Framework for security technologies for home networks SG 17
X.homesec-2 Certificate profile for the device in the home network SG 17
X.homesec-3 User authentication mechanisms for home network service SG 17



* This Recommendation was renumbered on 27-05-2005 without further modification.

 

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