In many countries IPTV over DSL or cable is now a standard offering of many DSL- or incumbent telecom companies, but this is the first offer I have heard of where fixed and mobile assets are combined and which has gone commercial.
This is of course a network based offering so it's relatively easy to bring to the mobile phone. Let's see if Vodafone also has something up their sleeves for the future to allow their mobile customers to access their multimedia content stored in their home network.
Almost two years ago, I posted an article about how downlink traffic over my DSL line is severely impacted when at the same time I am sending a large amount of data in the uplink. This is due to the fact that acknowledgments are held up by other uplink data which slows down the traffic in downlink direction. I also mentioned then that some DSL routers are capable of prioritizing traffic such as TCP acknowledgments and VoIP packets to reduce this impact. Now two years later, I bought myself a Fritzbox DSL router and could finally put it to the test myself. Seeing is believing!
And indeed, the difference to a standard DSL router is quite amazing. The first picture below shows how the speed of an ongoing data download is severely reduced while I sent an e-mail with a large file attachment. Once the e-mail was sent, the speed returns again to what my DSL line is capable of, about 6 MBit/s. The same test with the Fritzbox shows quite a different behavior as shown in picture 2 below. While one can see a slight impact once the e-mail transfer starts, but the overall data rate remains pretty much the same as during times without the uplink being fully loaded (600 kbit/s).
Next on the test list was a VoIP call while both uplink and downlink were fully used. To my surprise both the standard DSL router I have and the Fritzbox managed to handle the SIP call both from my Nokia N95 and via a VoIP soft-client on the PC I used for the download without a glitch. Voice quality in both uplink and downlink direction to a PSTN line via a media gateway in the Internet was flawless, no packet loss and also no perceptible increase in delay. Quite a surprise indeed, I was expecting some problems with my standard DSL router in uplink direction. However, there were none which means those VoIP UDP packets must have sneaked through well despite the high load.
For those of you who have been following my blog entries on femtos, home services and DLNA in the past couple of days, here's a link to a previous blog entry on Ericsson's ideas on how one could connect back to home services while not being at home.
I wished that the currently defined set of home services could be extended to other things such as a centralized calendar, notes, address book, etc. as I am one of the few people who would like to have this data stored at home rather than in the cloud. But I guess the current DLNA initiative is more about multimedia content than personal information.
Here's a little follow up on my previous thoughts on how mobile devices could interact with devices in your home network. This video of Nokia shows how the uPNP DLNA compatible Nokia N95 is used as a Mobile Digital Media Server (M-DMS) by a game console and a TV screen to get pictures and music. Quite impressive!
Last week I met Thierry Samama in Paris, who is looking after ip.access' pico- and femtocell business in France to discuss a bit about the wireless industry and, of course, about femto cells. I asked him what he thinks about accessing devices at home via a 3G device directly via the femtocell instead of going through an operators core network. It was good to hear that ip.access is actually already working on this and he pointed me to this video in which they demo their connected home services capabilities. The video doesn't give many technical details but the applications shown are just what I had in mind concerning interaction between 3G handsets and devices at home such as a media server, TV set, etc.
The Key To The User's Heart
To me, accessing the home network via the femtocell holds the key for users actually wanting a femtocell at home. An alternative are of course dual mode devices with a Wifi interface. However, without pre-configuration of those devices by the mobile operator, who could of course do that if they wanted to, most people will have difficulties configuring the device to make use of them in the home network. Definitely an advantage for femtocells since no configuration of the mobile is required.
The video doesn't say exactly how local access works and how the applications on the Windows Mobile driven devices access devices and in the home network. UPNP perhaps? Nokia has already made strides in this direction with UPNP, which is part of S60 and Nseries phones which come equipped with a Wifi interface.
Femto In A Bundle
So I think femtos packaged together in a single box with Wifi and DSL/cable access sold by a converged fixed/mobile operator will best sell in a bundle which also includes mobile devices, pre-configured applications on them that can access resources in the home network, a media server at home and some IPTV. So instead of getting a subscription for a DSL line which includes IPTV and fixed line telephony offered these days in many countries, I could very well imagine that the femto that allows local access forms the bridge to the wireless world and removes the need for that extra telephone line. Others like Nokia are likely to take the Wifi/UPNP approach and it will be interesting to see how the different approaches compete with each other.
For more info on Femtos, connected home services, handover, autoconfiguration etc. have a look at ip.access' home page, they've got some good ressources there.