A wired-home boom? Depends on where you live

The wired home is no longer a niche market, according to a recent study by Cahners In-Stat Group (Scottsdale, AZ), but while home-networking equipment and residential gateway sales are expected to skyrocket over the next five years

The wired home is no longer a niche market, according to a recent study by Cahners In-Stat Group (Scottsdale, AZ), but while home-networking equipment and residential gateway sales are expected to skyrocket over the next five years-from $600 million to $5.7 billion by 2004-don't expect to see returns immediately.

While equipment companies, service providers, and the consumer electronics sector are all developing products and strategies for the connected home, the marketplace excitement has yet to become widespread.

"It all depends where you are in the country," says Mark Cerasuolo, integrated-systems program manager at Leviton Telcom (Bothell, WA). "In many areas of the West, it's hard to sell a new home that doesn't have Category 5 wiring. It's booming here and in areas such as Florida and Texas. But when I talk to people back in the Northeast, I get blank looks." Where home networking is hot, Cerasuolo adds, the market for retrofitting older homes is also thriving.

But according to the In-Stat Group report, the general public needs more convincing before getting their homes wired for complete connectivity. Mike Wolf, senior analyst for In-Stat Group, doesn't think home networking will really take off "until consumers are shown that this technology is simple and adds value to their lives. This will take time and education, and there will be a few hiccups along the way."

While that may be true of the entertainment/home systems management aspect, Cerasuolo believes the public is increasingly becoming aware of the need for high-speed connectivity, thanks to the growth of digital cable and the Internet. These, Cerasuolo says, have given middle America "a lesson in Bandwidth 101."

For its part, Leviton is gearing up for the promising home-market sector by establishing a dedicated engineering product development and marketing group, to be overseen by voice/data vice president Ken Moriyama. The group will combine the expertise of its four focused business units: Structured Media, Power Quality, Home Con-trols, and Light Controls.

"We've cut our teeth on the telecom side, and with new products that we'll be releasing this month, we'll be raising the bar on structured media for the home," Cerasuolo says.
-Steve Smith

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