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Residential networking

This is the first installment of an Iowa State University 12-part series on structured wiring for the home.Welcome to the first installment of the Iowa State University (ISU) 2001 residential networking course. Installments of this 12-part course will appear in each issue of CEE News through 2001. More than 2,000 electrical professionals have taken these ISU continuing education courses. We trust

This is the first installment of an Iowa State University 12-part series on structured wiring for the home.

Welcome to the first installment of the Iowa State University (ISU) 2001 residential networking course. Installments of this 12-part course will appear in each issue of CEE News through 2001. More than 2,000 electrical professionals have taken these ISU continuing education courses. We trust that CEE News readers will benefit from it just as many others have.

Iowa State University produces these courses especially to meet the needs of electrical professionals who don't have the time for traditional college courses. While the training at your local college may be excellent, it can be very difficult to access. Traveling trainers, another option, frequently provide excellent instruction as well, but they require not only travel and a good deal of expense from you, but several days of lost wages.

The Iowa State correspondence courses have been designed to fill the training gap for full-time electrical professionals. The training comes to you, the cost is kept very reasonable and successful graduates receive 6.0 continuing education units (CEUs). These can be transferred into college hours, which are frequently required to maintain professional certifications. The certificate of completion is also very useful to have as a professional certification that you can show to customers or employers.

RESIDENTIAL NETWORKS For years, many of us have been wondering what the "home of the future" would be like. Most of us imagined lots of gadgets. We were wrong. The home of the future looks a lot like the office. And it just arrived.

Home control, security systems and fire protection are fine things, but the thing that people really want - and are really willing to pay for - is quality Internet access. This is not a trend or a fad; it is here to stay, and it just got serious.

Two primary forces drive this market demand:

1. The adults: The majority of workers in the United States have office jobs. By far most of them use the Internet regularly. Their Internet access at the office is on a fast connection; either T1 or DSL. They are used to this, and no longer want to tolerate excruciatingly slow dial-up connections at home. Magnifying this is the fact that most of these people bring work home with them. Using dial-up is frustrating and aggravating; it is a step backwards for these people.

2. The kids: First came chat rooms. Now comes Napster. More than 30 million people use Napster, and many more use Napster-like file sharing services such as Gnutella. Ask most any teenager, and you'll find out all about it: Any song you want, in any version you want, any time you want, absolutely free.

The linchpin here is that both of these things require good Internet connections - now called broadband connections. Dial-up connections, even at 56K (which is almost never really obtained anyway) can't handle this. And, broadband connections serve one computer or several computers for the same cost. So, it makes perfect sense to outfit any house (especially a new house) with a single broadband connection, and to run inexpensive wire to the other computers in the house, sharing the broadband connection to the Internet.

WHAT RESIDENTIAL NETWORKS DO As mentioned above, residential networks allow a number of computers in a home to operate over a single broadband DSL or cable modem connection.

But this is not all. They also distribute telephone and cable TV signals far better than the usual method; this allows for changes, upgrades, using a TV to view DVDs run on a computer, using a good stereo to listen to MP3s (music files, like listening to a CD) and so on.

Wired or wireless networking schemes can be used, and all sorts of security and home control equipment can be tied-in, although these are secondary and optional benefits.

THE GIDDY NUMBERS The following facts demonstrate the growth of the market:

- More than half of all American homes have more than one computer.

- New computer sales are rising far more than expected. (Hard as that may be to believe.)

- A standard now exists for the installation of residential networks. (TIA-570-Residential Telecommunications Cabling Standard.)

- Most local telephone companies now offer DSL broadband service for about $50 per month or less.

- Almost all cable TV companies offer cable modem broadband service for about $50 per month or less.

- With 30-40 million users, Napster and others like it are unstoppable. (Gnutella, for example, is a distributed service, which means there is no central group of computers that could be seized or shut down, even if a court ordered it.) In addition, there are now services that allow you to trade video recordings online. Download the movie you've been looking for and send it from your computer to your TV. Any time, any place, for free.

- 18 million people now work part-time from home. The number of home offices now tops 16 million in the United States.

- In 1998, 38,000 new homes were wired for networks. In 1999, 90,000 were wired. In 2000, it looks like at least 200,000 new homes will be wired for networking.

- In 2000, nearly 16 million home PCs were purchased.

I'll throw one more fact into the mix here: The commercial computer networking people don't know how to deal with residential customers, and are staying away from this market. That means that it is ours for the taking.

As most of us know, market projections are seldom terribly accurate; but they do generally point in the correct direction. So, here are a few of them to give you an idea of where this market is now, and where it is going:

- Money spent on home networking is expected to rise from $134 million in 1999 (actual result) to $495 million in 2000 (partially verified) to $2.4 billion in 2005.

- By 2002, there will be 15.3 million residential networks.

- By 2003, there will be 20 million broadband subscribers.

- By 2005, 19% of all homes (not just new homes) will have wireless networks.

Are all of these projections going to come true? Certainly not; but they do give some idea of what will be going on. The people who make these projections get paid for being right; if they are too far wrong, they go out of business.

WHAT WE'LL COVER In this course, we will cover hard-wired networking, wireless networking (great for existing homes), telephone systems, broadband (digital) telephone service, cable TV and cable modems, special television services (such as home theaters), PC-based entertainment (music and video) and finally, security and home controls.

There is far too much material to cover in a series of articles, so each month we will cover part of the course material here in CEE News.

HOW THE COURSE WORKS The design of the annual correspondence course has been refined over the past several years to make it as streamlined as possible. Our students have found the courses to be easy to take, and the material easy to follow on their own. We write the course textbooks from scratch to make them understandable to a student studying without an instructor in front of him or her. And even though correspondence training necessarily removes you from the teacher, you can pose questions or get clarifications from the instructor at any time, via phone, fax or e-mail.

The course is administered by Iowa State University, College of Engineering, Department of Continuing Education. You must register for the course with the University (there is a registration form on page 34) and pay your registration fee directly to them. (Do not call CEE.) Every month, CEE will run an article based upon one of the course lessons.

Anixter family to leave Anicom as part of restructuring The Anixter family is stepping down from Anicom, one of the largest wire and cable specialists in the United States, following the completion of an internal investigation into alleged accounting irregularities that surfaced earlier this year.

Anicom Inc., Rosemont, Ill., said it concluded its internal investigation into accounting matters and plans to revise its financial statements for the first quarter of 2000, as well as 1999 and 1998. As a result of the in-house probe, the company expects to restate 1998 and 1999 results, lowering reported pretax earnings by $34.4 million.

The company also announced several new elements of a restructuring plan that it hopes will push the company back to profitability by mid-2001. Along with trimming back its workforce 10% and its previously announced plan to take a pretax charge of up to $5 million, the company's founders will be retiring at year-end.

Well-known in the wire world as the founders of Anixter Inc., and Anicom, a nine-year-old wire specialist, the Anixter family, Alan, William, and Scott, are retiring from the company effective at the end of this year. Anicom interim Chief Executive Thomas Reiman said, "The Anixter family was the architect of this industry. Alan and Bill were the pioneers when they founded Anixter Brothers over 40 years ago. Alan and Scott, with Bill's guidance on the board, built Anicom from scratch to a more than $500 million distribution specialist across North America."

The company reports that it is nearing a decision on a new CEO. Reiman said the company is close to concluding a search that has involved a screening process by its board of directors and senior management team.

Anicom plans to file its second and third quarter results when it files revised 1998 and 1999 audited financial statements, probably before the end of the year. Including restructuring charges, the company expects second-quarter pretax losses of $13.4 million on revenue of $143.4 million.

The Anixter family got back into the wire business in the early 1990s when Bill, Alan and Alan's son, Scott, co-founded Anicom. Propelled by an intense acquisition drive that included the purchase of 16 companies in more than four years, the company grew to $537 million in sales in 1999. Anicom went public in 1995.

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