Residential wiring: A new cabling opportunity

There is a new market opportunity developing for all cabling professionals, including cabling manufacturers and installers: the residential wiring market. In terms of market potential, the commercial-building market can be counted in the tens of thousands of buildings to be cabled, but the potential market for cabling homes can be counted in the hundreds of millions. In fact, there are more than 100 million homes in the United States today, and more than one million new homes are added to the ho

Frank Murawski,

FTM Consulting

There is a new market opportunity developing for all cabling professionals, including cabling manufacturers and installers: the residential wiring market. In terms of market potential, the commercial-building market can be counted in the tens of thousands of buildings to be cabled, but the potential market for cabling homes can be counted in the hundreds of millions. In fact, there are more than 100 million homes in the United States today, and more than one million new homes are added to the housing base every year.

Residential wiring has essentially remained unchanged over the past 25 years. The typical home has wiring installed and hidden behind the walls. As a result, the homeowner has been taking home wiring for granted. Electrical-power cabling terminated at electrical outlets is located conveniently to plug-in electrical appliances. Quad twisted-pair wiring connected to telephone jacks is routed in key areas to permit plugging in telephone devices, including newer devices such as faxes and modems. The newest residential wiring--coaxial cable--is terminated at coaxial outlets in the family room, living room, or den; it is used for connecting to cable- television and other video services.

All three types of wiring were installed to meet their primary purposes with no regard for interoperability or planning for future services. Individual wiring systems transmit their service providers` services from home-network interface units at the entrance of the house to various outlets located throughout the residence.

The premise behind this wiring architecture is that each of the three wiring installations is based on a consistent standard supporting the capabilities of different manufacturers` equipment to connect to the home`s wiring. This allows each wiring system to be installed before final decisions are made about which products will be connected to it.

It is anticipated that this approach to residential wiring will change dramatically over the next several years. This process is not likely to include a complete change from the existing wiring system, but it will rather be a gradual replacement of and supplement to existing wiring with new wiring. This is because it is too costly to change out a home`s existing wiring. In addition, most consumers are reluctant to change something that is working. For example, my home-office wiring includes three separate telephone lines; this system effectively supports my business, and at this time I would consider detrimental any disruption caused by a wiring change.

However, fundamental shifts occurring in the telecommunications marketplace will result in the need for new wiring to be installed in new-home construction--as well as, to a lesser degree, in existing homes. These shifts include:

- the need to add home-automation controls,

- the growth in the home-office market, including new home-office-based companies started by entrepreneurs and telecommuters,

- the emergence of new broadband telecommunications services, such as high-speed Internet access or video-on-demand.

Home wiring evolution

These shifts in residential-application requirements will lead to the development of the home market for wiring in three overlapping, application-driven stages. The current stage, or Stage One, is the baseline electrical, telephone, and cable-TV wiring currently installed in most homes. Stage Two, which has been under way since the mid-1980s, incorporates home-automation controls into Stage One wiring, primarily by using the existing electrical-power wiring. This stage usually involves adding products such as X10 or cebus modules to existing wiring, eliminating the need to replace the current home wiring system. Stage Three is only now beginning to evolve and will include the addition of broadband services to first- or second-stage wiring. The third stage will probably require the replacement of existing wiring with new residential wiring. This is because existing wiring is limited in bandwidth, while newer home-wiring systems using high-performance unshielded twisted-pair, coaxial, and fiber cabling will provide the bandwidth required for emerging broadband services.

Beyond these three stages, a long-term change will begin to be seen in the next century. In this stage, wide area networks will be totally digital, as will all devices in the home. This will occur as consumers replace their existing analog electronic devices with digital devices, a costly but gradual process that will take place over a span of 20 years. This future all-digital world will definitely require newer, high-performance home wiring.

Frank Murawski is president of ftm Consulting (New Hyde Park, NY), a firm specializing in market research and development of premises cabling systems. Recent collaboration with World Information Technologies has resulted in joint development of a new market-research report on the residential wiring market. For more information on this report, contact Murawski at (717) 533-4990, or call wit at (516) 754-5700.

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