HomeRF Working Group Calls it Quits

HomeRF Working Group Calls it Quits

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Written By Eric Sandler

By Clint Boulton

January 8, 2003

The Home Radio Frequency Working Group (HomeRF), which promoted a wireless home networking specification to compete with 802.11b (aka Wi-Fi), has disbanded.

The HomeRF standard, once noted for it ability to transmit voice and data over its networks, was supported by group members Intel, Compaq, Motorola and Proxim. A Proxim spokesperson confirmed the HomeRF Working Group has dissolved, but would not dicuss the reasons with internetnews.com. The group’s site, www.homerf.org, has been removed.

HomeRF was designed to integrate media as part of the protocol, rather than as a set of add-ons as is the case with the 802.11 family. 802.11 is Ethernet over wireless with plug-ins; HomeRF is a ground-up telephony, multimedia, and data spec. Moreover, HomeRF took too long to get up to the 10Mbps speed that Wi-Fi boasted.

Mike Wolf, Senior Analyst & Group Manager, Voice and Data Communications with research firm In-stat/MDR, said the writing on the wall for the demise of the group was written months ago — even before HomeRF experts at some member firms were let go.

“A lot of firms gave up on it by mid-2002, and Proxim was one of the last firms to hang on to it,” Wolf told internetnews.com. “Proxim made a huge bet on it, but they kind of changed course when they bought the ORiNOCO line from Agere [June 2002].” By then, Intel, Compaq and Siemens had abandoned HomeRF.

Wolf said the technology was solid, but that there wasn’t room for two technologies for home networking.

“HomeRF was fine as a low cost technology for the home, but then 802.11 products became much more affordable,” Wolf said. “History is littered with okay technologies that never really caught on.”

Vultures seem to have been circling the standard for a while, and HomeRF supporters gradually seemed to turn toward 802.11b, or Wi-Fi. For example, last April HomeRF partner Motorola unveiled cable modems with built-in Ethernet and 802.11b wireless support. The HomeRF Working Group had hoped to see its standard supported by a major player in the same fashion but this did not materialize. While the announcement wasn’t proof that Motorola was giving up on HomeRF entirely, it certainly showed the prevailing interest in 802.11b.

Arguably the first glaring sign of trouble for HomeRF arose in March 2001, when major group member Intel indicated it would no longer support the standard and would turn to Wi-Fi instead. Intel moved its AnyPoint wireless home networking product line to the Wi-Fi standard.

Intel cited its desire for a single wireless networking standard for the 2.4 GHz band and the benefits of consolidating its corporate wireless (Wi-Fi) and home networking (HomeRF) efforts onto one technology platform.

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