Residential Gateways

Dana Blankenhorn writes about gateways…

A gateway has an Internet connection on one side, and some sort of LAN connection on the other. (Usually it includes a wireless LAN.) It’s a modem, it’s a router, it’s a switch.

But what is it in terms of the market? How will you get it?

Is it a set-top box? Certainly the friends who got me curious about all this in the first place think so. A carrier defines their Internet services through the gateway. Phone companies are picking partners. They could point to Bell Canada’s tie-in with Siemens. All the carriers are picking partners. Get hitched now or miss out. Who do they play golf with?

Is it a modem? This was the surprising conclusion of ABI Research, in a report issued late last month. Standards are emerging, there will be little to tell between them, they said. This is how consumers like it, and it’s a great way for DSL to pick up market share against cable, since cable companies prefer wires to wireless.

Is it a cell phone? The DSLForum is voting on proposed standards right now, for what’s in the gateway, the server it connects to, and the way that server connects. But not every gateway will work on every DSL network. Maybe phone companies could put a range of gateways on offer, at a range of prices, ranging from free to a few hundred dollars, with different capabilities — some handling video, others focusing on punching through walls, still others basic units for home networking.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Rob Keenan of CommsDesign suggested that it could change. Basic units might go retail, the way Linksys routers do, but as video takes hold phone companies might give them away as part of the service. “I care about cheap, easy to install, and whether it works,” he said. “All this other stuff is meaningless.”

…and why they matter:

A residential gateway is probably going to define how you get your Internet service in coming years.

Why buy a modem, a router, a switch, and a Wi-Fi set-up when can get them all at once, probably free?

This makes gateways important. Since the Wi-Fi set-up is in there too, they’re also going to define your Local Area Network.

And the LAN is where your Always-On applications will live.

So, yeah, gateways matter. It’s a market worth studying.

It could be an interesting market opportunity in India as broadband starts picking up in the next 1-2 years.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.