HomePlug Powerline Alliances Gets IEEE Backing: Standard To Come Soon

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.

Tags:  IEEE, Powerline, HomePlug, plc