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G.hn Crashes the IEEE Home Networking Party

Jeff Baumgartner
2/2/2011
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A new home networking standards effort underway at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) looks to combine the management of Wi-Fi, powerline and coax networks, and the folks behind the G.hn movement want in on the action.

The initiative, IEEE P1905.1, is being dressed up as a potential G.hn competitor because it would create an abstraction layer to manage those home networks that use a blend of physical layers. Because that IEEE work doesn't necessarily involve new chips that might, for example, integrate Wi-Fi, HomePlug and MoCA on the same piece of silicon (though we'd never put it past Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) to tackle such an effort), G.hn backers view 1905 as complementary to what they're doing. (See IEEE to Blend MoCA, Powerline & Wi-Fi .)

Ensuring that this coming abstraction layer works on top of G.hn was the "number-one topic" discussed at the 1905 kickoff meeting in December, claims Chano Gomez, the co-chair of the HomeGrid Forum committee (the marketing group behind G.hn) and the business development director for Lantiq Semiconductor . Lantiq makes Wi-Fi and G.hn chips, so it's got an incentive to draft off any initiative that looks to ease the management of heterogeneous home networks.

He adds that "literally half the group was pushing for this idea," including people representing the interests of Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Sigma Designs Inc. (Nasdaq: SIGM) and Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL) (which all happen to be in the G.hn camp). He also acknowledges that, unsurprisingly, the concept met with resistance from folks that aren't developing G.hn products

Gomez says G.hn, a standard under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T) , is solving a different problem from IEEE's 1905 project, so they should be viewed as harmonic helpers.

While G.hn uses a unified MAC and PHY to support coax, phoneline and powerline on the same chipset, 1905 looks to help manage myriad physical layers. In those instances, it may be managing a mix of home network devices that use Wi-Fi, Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) and Ethernet.

The IEEE standard will also look to create a meshing fabric that aggregates wireless and wired streams on the home network, and can switch automatically to another type of connection when one type starts to degrade in performance.

IEEE was not immediately available to discuss whether it's already considering adding G.hn in 1905 at this stage of the project. But it's early. Having a "stable draft" emerge within a year would be "an ambitious target," 1905 Project Chair Paul Houze told Light Reading Cable last month. The 1905 working group has four meetings scheduled for this year, the next set for April 5 through 7 in Vienna.

Information posted by the working group expressly references technologies such as IEEE 1901 (Broadband over Power Line), 802.11, Ethernet and MoCA 1.1, with the caveat that the standard will be "extendable to work with other home networking technologies."

That would suggest the window is open not just to G.hn but to technologies such as Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) .

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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