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New Year Vows Reignite Home-Networking Faceoff

Tuesday's announcement of a new liaison between the HomePlug Powerline Alliance and the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) has reignited the war of words between the opposing home-networking camps -- and service providers may soon have to start taking sides. (See MoCA, HomePlug Get It On.)

While the HomePlug/MoCA relationship is strictly a co-marketing deal, it could lead to bigger things, such as technical agreements on home-networking gear that supports HomePlug and MoCA standards. Such a development would raise questions about the necessity of the new global standard, G.hn.

HomePlug already has a deal with the ZigBee Alliance , a wireless home network standard. That agreement began as a marketing deal, but ultimately produced technical agreements, notes Rob Ranck, president of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance.

"There are existing rules you have to work through, with existing members," he says. "There are real good reasons to combine road maps, but we are not going that far right now. I just wouldn’t rule out anything in the future."

Ranck says Homeplug and MoCA began discussions three years ago, and even suggested that a G.hn standard wouldn’t have been necessary if those earlier talks had been more successful.

Backers of G.hn, which delivers high-speed home networking over copper, coax, or twisted pair wiring, claim the standard, which was endorsed by the International Telecommunication Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T) last fall, is building momentum among service providers. (See HomeGrid Aims for the Smart Grid.)

But Ranck shoots down talk of any such momentum. He argues that HomePlug and MoCA both continue to build their own membership, each of which is much larger than that of the primary G.hn marketing organization, the HomeGrid Forum .

"Homeplug has 70 members, and MoCA has 50," says Ranck. "We are trying to chart our own course here. Organizations of the scope and size of HomePlug and MoCA would naturally respond to the market need to combine coax and powerline solutions."

Both organizations reacted negatively to the G.hn standard, claiming it lacks backwards compatibility with HomePlug AV and MoCA deployments. (See G.hn No Slam Dunk With Service Providers.)

As a result, some chipmakers and equipment makers are preparing to make home networking gear that supports multiple approaches. (See Chip Firms Prepare for Home Networking Faceoff ).

To date, MoCA has been most successful in the U.S., where it is deployed by a number of major cable operators and by Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), while HomePlug has found more success in Europe, where coaxial cable is not as widely deployed. (See Cox, Entropic MoCA Deal Not Exclusive and HomePlug Plugs Device Milestone.)

The other widely used home networking technology in the U.S. is Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) , which today also often uses existing coaxial cable. Many HomePNA users, including AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), have shown initial support for G.hn.

Additional HomePlug announcements are expected at CES this week.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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