Broadband Over Power Adversaries Unite on Standard

Power lines can do more than just transmit power. Broadband over
powerline (BPL) technologies have been around since at least the turn of the
millennium, but they still have some hurdles to overcome.

However, with a new joint IEEE standards proposal submitted by two
competitors — the HomePlug Powerline Alliance and consumer electronics
giant Panasonic — broadband over powerline may finally jump into the wider
mainstream.

“The foremost barrier over the past seven years has been that many
industry leaders felt that an international recognized standards body needed
to endorse the technology,” Matthew Theall, president of the HomePlug
Powerline Alliance, told InternetNews.com.

The IEEE P1901 Work Group for Broadband over Powerline (BPL) aims to be
just such an international standards effort. The HomePlug industry trade
group includes giants in consumer electronics, networking and communications
and chips, including Samsung, LG, Comcast, Linksys, Intel and Texas
Instruments.

Together with Panasonic — which had previously been pushing
an incompatible set of its own specifications — the group has submitted a
proposal to the P1901 group that would permit interoperability between
existing BPL products from both vendor camps.

The thinking behind the new effort, as with less-unified powerline
networking pushes in the past, is that BPL may serve as one pipe that can
carry everything a broadband user needs. The technology can be used in
consumer electronics applications, as well as in backhaul for first- and
last-mile connectivity. Since at least
2003, the FCC and lawmakers have been looking at ways to harness BPL.

“In the 1990s, it became apparent that technologies existed which could
overcome the noise inherent on a copper line when it also carries
electricity,” Theall said. “Through the HomePlug development processes, we
created a technology that carries Internet connectivity, audio, standard and
HDTV video, IPTV, VoIP, and anything other digital technology that uses
copper wires.”

Theall said HomePlug technology is already well on its way to becoming a
mainstay, having shipped in 10 million products. The HomePlug
specification allows for both power and Internet
connectivity to travel over the same power line, at speeds of 14Mbps and
200Mbps. The new IEEE effort may see both speed and
functionality expand.

However, Theall said the initial goal of the unified effort is mostly on
creating a single standard, since that’s what will drive the industry
forward.

“A standard creates multiple choices for silicon, helps to create
ubiquity, and fosters innovation and competition among suppliers,” Theall
said. “All of these things ultimately benefit the consumer. Both HomePlug
and Panasonic have made [a] submission to the IEEE’s efforts, and it is
believed that by combining those contributions together now, the pace at
which the IEEE will be able to ratify a standard will be accelerated.”

News Around the Web