HomePlug Powerline Alliances Gets IEEE Backing: Standard To Come Soon

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News Posted: Tue, Apr 20 2010 11:24 AM
HomePlug is one of those technologies that have probably been around longer than you know, but it never really took off in a way that Bluetooth and Wi-Fi have. If you've never heard of it, it basically allows signals (usually network signals) to travel through a home's existing power network. Instead of forcing users to run long Ethernet drops or use flaky Wi-Fi, this is a happy medium solution.

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance just announced that the IEEE P1901 Working Group has passed an initial sponsor ballot, which paves the way for a global standard for powerline (PLC) networking. This is exactly the kind of legislation that was needed in order to kickstart HomePlug adoption; these days, if it's not a well-formed standard, most consumers will stay ten feet away. Just look at HD DVD from a few years ago.

The IEEE is a huge name. It's the same board behind Wi-Fi, Ethernet and FireWire, so they're definitely important in the grand scheme of things. Final ratification of the standard is expected in the third quarter of 2010, and the alliance hopes that the advancement of powerline technology to an internationally recognized IEEE standard will provide manufacturers and end-users with the assurance of product interoperability, driving broader adoption of PLC for home networking.

With more and more media requiring more and more bandwidth to transfer, not to mention the growth in home media streamer, Powerline solutions are poised to explode. We're waiting to see if the new devices based around the standard live up to their billings, though, but this is definitely a great step in the right direction.

HomePlug AV was used as baseline technology for the IEEE 1901 powerline networking standard. As such, products compliant to 1901 will be interoperable with millions of HomePlug AV products in the market today. The HomePlug Powerline Alliance will serve as the certification body for IEEE 1901 devices in a similar way as the Wi-Fi Alliance™ certifies IEEE 802.11 wireless networking devices.

Due to the maturity of the draft standard, the IEEE is already offering the specification for purchase through its online store, enabling members to now develop Smart Grid applications as well as next-generation broadband solutions that comply with P1901. The HomePlug Alliance is also finalizing the new HomePlug "Green PHY" (GP) specification as a certification profile of IEEE 1901, which will provide a low-power Smart Energy/Smart Grid standard. HomePlug GP will enable the industry's only powerline solutions to meet the IP networking requirements of utility companies and appliance manufacturers.

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In my mind this makes a lot of sense from a security stand point. Having an 802.11N/G/B SSID broadcasted from your home, makes you a target for people stealing your internet. And even if you choose not to broadcast your SSID, theres always that chance that some one out there can still find it.

With the powerplug solution, all that is avoided while still providing you with internet in all your rooms. The major question for me is, how much bandwidth is lost in the powerlines? Seeing how they are not RJ-45 STP's.

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Just hide your SSID. Thats what I do.

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3vi1 replied on Tue, Apr 20 2010 4:58 PM

My experience with past Ethernet over power-line adapters has been that they vary their performance wildly from the advertised specs once you plug them into an actual house.

Between my switch here, and an outlet in the next room, I get half the advertised speed. Worse, if I plug another PC into a particular outlet on the other side of the room, the speed drops by another 50% or more.

This house is only a few years old too, so the wiring's new (and very well done). I just don't see these things as any competition if your end device will support an 802.11n card instead.

For things that don't support wifi, and unless you're looking for a purely temporary solution, I'd definitely recommend spending the time or money and running some CAT6 instead.

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I agree CAT 6 would be alot smoother and more stable.

I saw these things a while back and just looked at them like,....Yeah right?

I could understand if it was some type of system that was built into the wiring that allowed for a greater shield protection. But to do this as a converter plug in solution, it just makes more sense to get some wireless routers if you are in a rental. If you are in your home just run some lines:P

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I'm really wondering if they figured out how to fix the speed issues with this. Back when I first heard of and looked into it, the performance was anything but impressive (unless you count impressively bad). I'll think I'll stick with running CAT, even though I live in an apartment. Carpet is easy to lift along walls...

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realneil replied on Wed, Apr 21 2010 10:19 AM

Some houses are a nightmare to run cable in. Some are just as bad for wireless connectivity too. Lath and plaster walls have wire mesh embedded into the walls that screw up wireless signals. I could see this as a solution for some people who have existing issues that prevent other types of connections from working. The problem with these things that I remember is that they only have a 50% chance of connecting when you use them.

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I mean that most houses run on three wired 240 volts split into two 120 volt circuits. Both use a common ground, but they are separate circuits. If you connect to a single plug in one room, you are connected to the common ground and only one of the two 120 volt circuits in the house. If the room you want to connect to is part of the other 120 volt circuit, then you don't have proper connectivity resulting in a 50% chance it will not work. The pictures in this article are of European style devices and circuits, not American wiring.

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