HomeRF GENERAL INFORMATION
The information provided on this page is from my own collection and not available elsewhere. As the past Marketing & Communications Chairman of the HomeRF Working Group, I can add unique insights into the wireless market and standards process. Additional information on HomeRF and related consulting services are available upon request.
- What is HomeRF?
- KEY HomeRF MESSAGES
- HomeRF STATUS & BRIEF HISTORY
- HomeRF 2.01 SPECIFICATION
- HomeRF FLYER
- HomeRF FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- HomeRF UPDATE
- Network World Face-off, comparing HomeRF and Wi-Fi HomeRF
- WHITE PAPERS
- Home Networking Technologies
- Wireless Networking Choices for the Broadband Internet Home
- A Comparison of Security in HomeRF versus IEEE802.11b
- Interference Immunity of 2.4 GHz Wireless LANs
- Quality of Service in the Home Networking Model
- A Vision of Next Generation Home Phone Systems
- HomeRF: Designed for Homes & Ideal for Teleworkers
- HomeRF PRESENTATIONS
- General HomeRF Overview & Update
- HomeRF Overview & Update
- HomeRF Technical Overview
- Comparing Wireless Networking Technologies for the Broadband Internet Home
- HomeRF Voice Capabilities
- The Case for HomeRF: a better mousetrap?
- HomeRF in Gateways
- Selling, Justifying & Designing Wireless Home Networks to Avoid Common Pitfalls
- Installing Wireless: The Configuration Choices
- Integrating DSL and Wireless in the Home
- Separating the Home from the Workplace
- Wireless Entertainment
- Wireless vs. Powerline and New Wire
- HomeRF COMDEX Booth Photos
What is HomeRF?
Founded in 1997 by 5 major PC industry companies, the Home Radio Frequency Working Group developed a single technical specification for a broad range of interoperable consumer devices. Their market vision and technical strength helped bring the multi-user voice, data and streaming media capabilities of the Broadband Internet to low-cost home wireless networking. Initially called SWAP (Shared Wireless Access Protocol) and later just HomeRF, this open specification allows PCs, peripherals, cordless phones and other consumer devices to share and communicate voice and data in and around the home without the complication and expense of running new wires. HomeRF combines several wireless technologies in the 2.4 GHz ISM band, including IEEE 802.11FH (the frequency-hopping version of wireless data networking) and DECT (the most prevalent digital cordless telephony standard in the world) to meet the unique home networking requirements for security, QoS, and interference immunity — issues that still plague Wi-Fi (802.11b and g).
KEY HomeRF MESSAGES
- Designed and Optimized for Homes and Small Offices: certified products are Simple, Secure, Reliable, and Affordable.
- Ideal for Broadband Services: unique ability to integrate Voice, Data and Entertainment.
- Extends Beyond Wireless LAN: Up to 8 phone lines, audio/video streaming, standardized roaming, and 10Mb/s performance.
HomeRF STATUS & BRIEF HISTORY
Membership in the HomeRF Working Group once exceeded 100 leading companies across the PC, consumer electronics, networking, peripherals, communications, software, retail channel, home control and semiconductor industries worldwide. But the group disbanded at the end of 2002 and is no longer developing, promoting or distributing the HomeRF specification.
At its peak in 2000, HomeRF represented 95% of the wireless home networking market, and most analysts viewed HomeRF as technically superior to 802.11. Its adaptive frequency hopping technology contributed to security advantages over 802.11 WEP encryption, as well as better interference immunity and QOS capabilities designed to carry voice, data and streaming audio & video simultaneously.
HomeRF initially had a huge cost advantage over 802.11 and was the first to hit the magic $100 consumer price point when 802.11b NICs sold for $250 and access points went for over $1,500. Apple’s AirPort was the first 802.11 product to meet the $100 target, but it was soon followed by many others due to the wide availability of chipset from several suppliers.
Proxim was the only supplier of HomeRF chipsets, and since Proxim also made end products, other manufacturers complained that they had to buy components from their competitor. The fact that our group didn’t address that conflict led to the eventual downfall of HomeRF, which occurred during an economic recession when companies already struggled to justify duplicate engineering and marketing efforts – for HomeRF, 802.11 and Bluetooth. The fact that HomeRF was developed by a consortium and not an official standards body also put it at a disadvantage against Wi-Fi and its IEEE 802.11 standard.
AT&T joined the group because HomeRF was designed for high-speed broadband services and the need to support PCs, phones, stereos and televisions; but last-mile deployment occurred more slowly than expected and with slower speeds. So it was natural that the home networking market focused more on multi-PC households sharing Internet connections for email and browsing than on integrating phone and entertainment services into a broadband service bundle. As a result, the original Promoter companies gradually started pulling out of the group rather than supporting multiple standards. They included IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, Microsoft, and lastly Intel. That left only companies like Motorola, National Semiconductor, Proxim, and Siemens to do the heavy lifting. Even Proxim started pulling away when negative media surrounding HomeRF started affecting it’s core Data Networking business, and that left Siemens to do the work of integrating voice, data and video. Siemens was willing to go it alone with HomeRF technology but was concerned by growing uncertainties in the cordless phone market, including mobile phone as home phone, VoIP over Wi-Fi, and 5GHz vs. 2.4 GHz. When Siemens eventually got out of the cordless phone market, it was the final nail in the HomeRF coffin.
Today HomeRF remains an example of the importance of politics and market timing and how the best technology doesn’t always win in the market. The fact that WECA members (now the Wi-Fi Alliance) lobbied the FCC for two years, and was effective in delaying the approval of wideband frequency-hopping, helped 802.11b catch up and gain an insurmountable lead in the market, which was then extended with 802.11g. The use of OFDM in 802.11a and .11g solved many of the RF interference problems of .11b. And WPA and 802.11x improved security over WEP encryption, which was especially important in the corporate world. All of this has helped make Wi-Fi the market success it is today. Even though Wi-Fi still lacks much of the promise of HomeRF, it’s “good enough.”
HomeRF 2.01 SPECIFICATION
The detailed technical spec is available for universities as a teaching aid and companies that want to enhance the technology on their own. A nearly 500-page PDF is on Slideshare, and a Word document is available by request.
Imagine a World Without Wires – a world where you can enjoy the integration of cordless data and voice, taking full advantage of a broadband connection; experience the freedom of wireless Internet access and printer sharing in and around your home or small office; or simultaneously access another PC or Internet gateway, listen to your favorite music, and watch streaming media from anywhere without wires.
(October 2001) A concise collection of answers to the most common questions.
Status and plans for HomeRF, as published in the May 2002 CABA Quarterly.
(April 2001) – This collection of articles and rebuttal is an online debate between supporters of HomeRF and Wi-Fi. It’s long but interesting reading if you want insight into the politics of this epic battle in the standards war.
HomeRF WHITE PAPERS
(May 2001) – This basic paper introduces the home networking market and applications and compares various technologies, including wired, no-new-wires, and wireless.
(2001)- This technical white paper examines three candidate wireless networking standards, HomeRF, Bluetooth and IEEE802.11, against the needs of service providers and consumers for the Broadband Internet home. The clear choice for this specific application based upon technical merit is shown here to be HomeRF. Only HomeRF provides simultaneous support for up to 8 toll-quality voice connections, 8 prioritized streaming media sessions and multiple Internet and network resource connections at Broadband speeds. And HomeRF accomplishes this with excellent comparative ratings for low cost, small size, low power consumption, interference immunity, security and support for high network density.
(2001)- Though the possibility of attacks similar to those leveled at 802.11b systems exist in theory for HomeRF systems, the relative level of difficulty is very different. HomeRF is stronger in preventing unauthorized access due to its frequency hopping technology and since attempts are not enabled by commercially available equipment.
(2001) – Of the three major technologies available for this band, only HomeRF is designed with a frequency agile physical layer and robust upper layer protocols to combat 2.4 GHz interference. This is what makes HomeRF the ideal wireless LAN technology for the home environment.
(2001) – The market for home networking will soon see rapid growth. In addition to traditional data networking, this market will be driven by the desire of consumers to have access to multimedia audio, video, and gaming services. The Quality of Service (QoS) requirements these demands have put on home networking technologies has led to new standardization activities designed to deliver the QoS consumers will demand. In this paper we discuss the many ways in which QoS can be delivered, and then focus on the specific attributes of the HomeRF standard that enable it to deliver high QoS voice and multimedia services over a wireless home networking infrastructure.
(2001) – This article from NetworkWorld compares HomeRF and Wi-Fi for home and telework applications.
(2000) – This technical article from IEEE Personal Communications describes how the Working Group was formed and the “vision” for the SWAP protocol, which includes the ability to add new functionality by blending previously separate applications for voice, data, and entertainment.
The following PowerPoint presentations are available for download, but not that file sizes can be large.
General HomeRF Overview & Update (973KB)
(CES 2002) – What is HomeRF, our view of Home Networking, wireless tradeoffs & positioning, highlights & challenges, and future plans. A larger version of the same slides is offered here with recorded narration (16.7MB).
HomeRF Overview & Update (4MB)
(CES 2002) – Highlights of HomeRF status, positioning, overview, outlook, and membership information.
(CES 2002) – No one design is well suited for all applications, and each must be optimized individually. This shows the workings of HomeRF and how it applies to unique home environments and applications. A softcopy PowerPoint version animates the illustrations and is available on request.
(CES 2002) – Introduces HomeRF and compares it to other candidate home networking technologies.
HomeRF Voice Capabilities (7.3MB)
(CES 2002) – Positions HomeRF as Global DECT … plus Data and Entertainment networking … and the ability to integrate applications on the handset.
(802.11 Planet Conference & Expo, Spring 2002) – Positions HomeRF as complimentary to 802.11a, with a lighthearted and unthreatening message.
HomeRF in Gateways (3.7MB)
(Early 2002 composite) – These charts are pulled from two HomeRF presentations, show several examples of gateways using HomeRF, and cover general gateway issues.
(EH Expo, Fall 2001) – From a class that HomeRF taught for the home systems industry.
(EH Expo, Fall 2001) – From a class that the HomeRF taught, covering the selection of technologies and products, and the configuration choice.
(EH Expo, Fall 2001) – From a class that HomeRF taught for the home systems industry, with lots of forecast charts.
(July 2001) – Contrasts the two different environments, comparing application and technology requirements.
Wireless Entertainment (13MB)
(Spring 2001) – After introducing the broadband environment, this presentation covers the role of wireless in digital music, television, and gaming, as well as how voice can enhance these applications.
(Spring 2001) – Using my own home as an example, I show how HomeRF adds mobility, helps recover from wiring “mistakes,” and future-proofs homes.
(COMDEX 2000) – HomeRF established a home networking “hot spot” pavilion at in 1999, a concept that has been repeated in every COMDEX and CES show since. These photos are from our second showing at COMDEX 2000, which was a runaway success.