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HomePlug Alliance backs new combo standard

Tue, 06/21/2011 - 8:15am
Brian Santo

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance said it is backing a developing standard that will describe how several existing home networking technologies – wired and wireless – would work together, making it easier for everything from set-tops to TVs to tablets to cell phones to be networked.

An IEEE working group is working on a new standard, designated P1905, designed to bridge HomePlug AV, Wi-Fi, MoCA and Ethernet, making hybrid networks easier to set up and then manage.

The desire to establish P1901 calls attention to a rift among proponents of various home networking technologies, which are working out their arguments in part through the two standards groups – the IEEE and the ITU.

Everyone has faced the reality that any given household is likely to be using a combination of networking technologies, with Wi-Fi almost always in the mix. The most obvious lack in hybrid home networks, then, is some connection between the set of wired standards and Wi-Fi.

Building that bridge is one of the motivators for developing IEEE P1905. Many of the chip vendors that are members of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance (member list below) should be able to leverage the standard to integrate multiple networking technologies into lower-priced chipsets.

The other motivator seems to be setting up in opposition to the new G.hn standard, created through the ITU.

G.hn grew out of the HomePNA (HPNA) standard and was designed to be a successor to HomePNA (phone line), MoCA (coaxial cable) and HomePlug AV (powerline). G.hn's backers have banded as the HomeGrid Forum.

Part of the rift in the home networking market is derived from the fact that HomePlug AV (essentially a faster version of HomePlug) is not backwards-compatible with HomePlug.

So while P1905 includes HomePlug, it does not include G.hn/HomeGrid (which includes HomePlug AV but not the original HomePlug) and HPNA.

The HomePlug Forum was an original member of the P1905 working group, announced more than a year ago. Other HomePlug Powerline Alliance member companies include Broadcom, Cisco Systems, France Telecom, Qualcomm, Atheros, Ralink, Sigma Designs, SPiDCom Technologies and STMicroelectronics.

IEEE P1905 defines an abstraction layer common interface that will allow applications and upper layer protocols to be agnostic to the underlying home networking technologies. Packets can arrive and be transmitted over any technology according to quality of service (QoS) priorities. IEEE P1905 also simplifies network setup by providing common setup procedures for adding devices, establishing secure links, implementing QoS and managing the network.

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