Cable Tech

New Standard Fuels HomePlug Joy

With a global standard for using home electrical lines for networking now at hand, powerline networking advocates say consumers will take advantage of this new option, particularly for bringing Internet video to home entertainment units and implementing smart grid technology in the home.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 's P1901 Working Group announced Tuesday that the initial sponsor ballot for a global powerline networking standard was passed with more than an 80 percent approval rating, paving the way for the final standard to be passed this summer.

That was particularly good news for the HomePlug Powerline Alliance , the industry group that began its efforts in 2000 to create an accepted technology approach to using electrical lines for home networking. The group has backed the HomePlug AV standard, which represents 80 percent of the powerline products sold today and which is compatible and interoperable with the IEEE P1901 standard, as it stands today.

"One of the things we have seen is that, with the lack of standardization, there is fragmentation in the market," says Rob Ranck, president of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance. "We have seen the market unify around HomePlug AV, and this will unify the market further."

HomePlug AV competes with other home networking standards, including the G.hn standard passed by the International Telecommunication Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T) last October, the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) , and the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) , as well as wireless options. (See ITU Touts G.hn Standard.)

Ranck believes HomePlug AV has an advantage, particularly in homes that aren't already wired with coaxial cable, as consumers look to bring Internet content to their TV sets, via Internet-connected TVs, game players, or other devices.

"There are a lot of Blu-ray players and TV sets being shipped with Ethernet built into them," he says. "That is driving a whole new need for connecting TVs and gaming machines and those kinds of consumer devices. HomePlug also can provide a very stable connection for delivering HD content, which requires much more bandwidth."

Ranck says TV manufacturers are also considering building HomePlug AV into their sets.

HomePlug also has developed the HomePlug GP or Green PHY specification, which targets smart grid and smart energy applications and is interoperable with both HomePlug AV and IEEE 1901. It will enable monitoring and controlling of appliances and energy consumer via low-speed, low-cost powerline communications, according to Ranck.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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