Trying to solve the home networking technology challenge - Part 2

Home network capabilities over power lines is yet another option to wireless home networking, and it is championed by the HomePlug Alliance

Rob Ranck, president of the HomePlug Alliance, said HomePlug AV is used by a number of top service providers in Europe, such as France Telecom and SwissComm. HomePlug has become the de facto IPTV strategy there due to construction specifications in Europe. Thicker walls caused coax or fiber deployments to be more costly and wireless deployments to be spotty, so IPTV delivery over power lines made the most sense, according to Ranck.

There are currently 26 million HomePlug product installations globally. Ranck thinks HomePlug didn't catch on initially in the U.S. because of the fervor around wireless home networking on the 802.11 standard. But as data usage in the home grows exponentially with the addition of dozens of HD channels and video data traffic, Ranck thinks more service providers will see the benefit of the HomePlug home networking standard.

HomePlug is already the easiest and most flexible home networking standard to deploy, according to Ranck.

"Many service providers I have talked to may have started their home networking efforts around coax, but then realized they could use a powerline offering and reach every room in the house, not just the two or three coax end nodes in a typical house," Ranck said. "The companies are realizing they want to save money on the truck rolls associated with other standards, and they turn to HomePlug standard devices to bring their costs down."

All of the competing standards can get rather confusing and contentious, and that's why The HomeGrid Forum is touting the ITU-T's G.hn standard as the best chance to create interoperability among power line, coaxial cable, and phone line home networking standards.

The G.hn standard, which the HomeGrid Forum will bring interoperability and transmission speed increases, is currently in the developmental phase, and it being designed to be compatible with devices operating on any of the three standards. The HomeGrid Forum announced earlier this month that it had signed liaison agreements with HomePNA, the Universal Powerline Association and Consumer Electronics Powerline Communications Alliance industry groups to support the G.hn standard, establish coexistence between G.hn and existing technologies, and endorse G.hn for next-generation wired home networking.

Matt Theall, president of the HomeGrid Forum, said the home network is evolving, and currently, the range of standards and the number of devices that don't interoperate is causing confusion and slowing progress.

"The HomeGrid Forum started with the goal of designing a standard that would allow for multiple devices, operating on multiple wiring systems to interoperate," Theall said. "We have telcos, consumer electronics companies, PC manufacturers, and silicon companies all working together to market the G.hn standard once it is finalized. "

G.hn's first recommendation, G.9960, received confirmation from ITU members in December 2008. G.hn has a target transmission rate of 1 Gb/sec, which would be about four times faster than any current home networking standard on paper, but Theall cautioned that field deployment speeds were likely to be significantly lower.

G.hn chips are expected to be available by September 2009, according to Theall, with consumer devices employing the chips expected to be released soon after the chips ship. The G.hn standard is expected to lower deployment and development costs for carriers and vendors alike. Perhaps the G.hn standard may make home networking less complicated and contentious, which would benefit both consumers and carriers with increased interoperability and better economics of production for home networking devices.

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