A recent consumer survey conducted by ABI Research has found that while most owners of home networks find their equipment works reasonably well, they would be willing to upgrade if that resulted in easier troubleshooting. The conclusion: there is an opportunity for home network equipment vendors if they can automate some of the commonest diagnostic and configuration tasks.

According to industry analyst Michael Inouye, "Although nearly 30 percent of the 1,007 respondents to the survey (which was conducted April 15-16, 2009 in the US) reported some initial difficulties in setting up their equipment, only 11 percent actually returned products as being "too hard" - a figure at the low end of the typical range of consumer electronics returns reported recently by the Wall Street Journal.

Most of the problems occurred with wireless setup, suggesting that vendors have an opportunity to make wireless network setup and security a much easier process through software and hardware solutions.

More than half of the respondents indicated that troubleshooting software would be "extremely" or "very" valuable to them. Automating simple tasks such as hardware resets would be even better.

At present the overwhelming majority of those surveyed use their home networks to provide Internet access to more than one computer; printer sharing and (in those under 35) online gaming ran distant second and third.

However that usage pattern - and the associated setup and maintenance - will soon become much more complex, as networks increasingly assume the role of distributing multimedia content around the home, says the report entitled "Feedback on Home Networking Setup and Connection Issues".