Broadband over powerline (BPL) networking at home advanced a step closer this week after major agreements were reached at the IEEE P1901 working group standardization effort held in Edinburgh, Scotland.
All three clusters of the working group looking to standardize BPL Medium Access Control and Physical layer specifications — for access control, interoperability in the home, and coexistence — made significant progress, according to Russell Haggar, VP of marketing at BPL chip developer SiConnect.
Sending data transmissions over electrical wiring has been promoted as "the next big thing" for decades, with advocates claiming it will provide competition for cable and telecom companies. But it has been slow to catch on, in part due to objections from ham radio operators who claim that BPL interferes with ham radio transmissions.
SiConnect is specifically focused on the Quality of Service (QoS) aspect of the coexistence standardization effort, and the company's proposal gained sufficient votes to move forward to more technical work. The other proposals in the coexistence stream came from a combination of the Consumer Electronics Powerline Communication Alliance (CEPCA) and the Universal Powerline Association (UPA), the Home Plug Powerline Alliance, and Telcordia.
CEPCA (of which SiConnect is a member) and UPA have worked together for nearly two years on a joint specification, and their proposal was also forwarded by the meeting for further consideration in October. The SiConnect QoS submission addresses the prospective standard's requirements for friendly co-existence between disparate technologies and is attempting to guarantee that powerline technologies from different vendors cannot interfere with each other's performance.
Specifically, the SiConnect proposal answers the requirement that the QoS needs of diverse applications including IPTV, streaming audio and online gaming are fully supported in a home network even when several powerline technologies are deployed side by side. According to SiConnect’s Haggar, “We endorse the far-reaching CEPCA-UPA joint initiative on coexistence, although the specification they have produced does not yet address the important topic of quality of service. We strongly believe that QoS is a vital ingredient for a powerline coexistence standard and that it needs to be taken into account at this early stage of development." Haggar also stated that he hopes all the proposals can be merged into one proposal in advance of the October meeting, but admits there is considerable technical work to be discussed, "and we will also need goodwill on all sides to ensure one coexistence solution."
He believes this cluster has a better chance of reaching agreement than the other two streams of broadband access over powerline and interoperability. "We would be lucky to see an interoperability standard any time soon," Haggar said.