The residential networking market is gaining momentum, but there are a few speed bumps to navigate before connectivity in the home becomes commonplace.
July 1, 2001
By the end of last year, more than 2.5 million households in the United States were equipped with a home network. The fact that three quarters of these homes became wired up within the previous two years indicates that there is a tidal wave of momentum building behind residential networking.
This mass wave of expectation could be broken, however, if equipment manufacturers do not iron out the wrinkles that make the consumer market so different from the enterprise space.
GETTING UP TO SPEED
The most intense challenge facing the home network market in Canada is nothing more than a lack of awareness. Canadians do not yet know enough about the solutions personal access networks (PANs) can provide and, in many cases, that they are actually available. Once consumers know more about home networking and wireless LAN capabilities, the demand will be there.
The best way to tackle this hurdle will be through leveraging relationships with retailers. During day-to day direct interaction, retailers are in the perfect position to interact with consumers, equipment manufacturers and service providers. In this position they can accomplish the following:
Educate consumers on home networking — Major electronics and computer retail chains have large customer bases that they can expose to home networking solutions, both in their stores and through advertising campaigns. By visiting a store offering home networking products, consumers will be able to gain a much greater understanding of product functionality. A retail environment offers consumers the chance to test out and gain hands-on experience with network-enabled devices, increasing their comfort level — and their chances of buying the product.
Educate equipment manufacturers and service providers on consumers’ needs — Retailers can relay information to companies regarding the challenges consumers face and the problems they are trying to solve. This will help companies create offerings that are the most compelling for consumers.
Understand problems that consumers face with technology — The installation expertise many retailers can bring to the market is of tremendous importance. With service providers shying away from truck rolls, someone will have to step in and assume the responsibility of deploying and setting up networks for consumers if networking is ever going to reach the mass market. By assuming this responsibility, retailers can help make home networks a mass-market reality sooner, rather than later.
Sell network-related products and services — Retailers have the opportunity to provide consumers with network-related services (in particular, network installation and maintenance).
LOOKING FOR REASSURANCE
As the home becomes increasingly complex, with more and more computers and electronic appliances, owners require easy-to-install solutions. They need to know about the wireless solutions available, and be assured that they do not have to tear down walls or undertake major renovations to have them.
North America has one of the highest PC penetrations in the world, and it is not uncommon to have multiple PCs in a household. Homeowners often have a computer in the home office, one in a child’s room, and even a laptop they bring back and forth from work. Connecting these computers and other electronic appliances with a PAN provides a variety of benefits.
Fortunately, by promoting easy-to-install technologies and leveraging the relationship between the equipment manufacturer and the retailer, consumers will be able to realize these benefits — and the hurdles facing the home network market can be overcome.CS
Jeremy Depow (sitting in for our usual wireless columnist Iain Grant) is a Senior Analyst with the Yankee Group in Canada, a technology-consulting firm in Brockville, ON. In this position, Mr. Depow is responsible for primary research and analysis of new telecommunications technologies and market developments. He also holds responsibility for the authoring of several Yankee Group Research Reports, which examine issues and developments in the Canadian telecommunications industry.