IEEE Ratifies Powerline Standard, HomePlug Certifies Home Networking Products Based on It

  • Home Networking
  • HomePlug
  • Powerline
PORTLAND, OR – The IEEE, the largest global standards body, has ratified a standard for broadband over powerline, and the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, the industry group promoting adoption of powerline home networking products, has enhanced its HomePlug AV certification program to include products based on the standard.

HomePlug came into existence as an industry specification independent of the official standards bodies, so the existence of a global standard adds a degree of credibility to powerline networking beyond what a de facto standard can provide. HomePlug Powerline Alliance president Rob Ranck says ratification by IEEE should help unify and stabilize the industry, as did previous IEEE networking standards such as IEEE 802.11 for wireless LAN and IEEE 802.3 for Ethernet.

"With standardization, there’s less of an opportunity for fragmentation by proprietary standards," Ranck says, adding that more companies are now making chips based on the HomePlug AV specs and several of them have announced that they support the IEEE standard. Increased competition at the chip level should eventually lower the cost of consumer devices, Ranck says.

Data Rates May Exceed 500 Mbps
Networking products that fully comply with the IEEE 1901 standard will deliver data rates in excess of 500 Mbps in LAN applications, according to IEEE. The technology uses sophisticated modulation techniques to transmit data over standard AC power lines of any voltage at transmission frequencies of less than 100 MHz.

“More than 94 corporations, trade associations and universities contributed to the standard’s evolution through the IEEE 1901 Working Group,” says Faure, “to create the world’s most innovative, mature and unified BPL standard.”

In the home, powerline communications will complement wireless LANs by providing a link through walls and other RF impediments as well as over distances beyond the normal range of wireless networks. It will complement wireless networks in hotels and other multistory buildings by carrying multimedia data over the longer distances and allowing wireless to complete the communication link over the last few meters.

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance, which operates the HomePlug compliance and interoperability certification program, has certified more than 215 HomePlug products to date. Under the enhanced testing program, HomePlug member companies can submit products for certification to the newly finalized standard. HomePlug AV testing is currently conducted at the facilities of Laboratoire des Applications Numériques (LAN) in France.

The IEEE-SA Standards Board approved IEEE 1901 on September 30, 2010. IEEE 1901 incorporates the HomePlug AV Medium Access Control (MAC) and Physical (PHY) layers as a baseline. According to Jean-Philippe Faure, chair of the IEEE 1901 working group, the 1901 standard is designed to accommodate major applications for powerline communications, including in-home broadband networks, smart energy and smart grid, and plug-in electrical vehicles.

IEEE 1901 is fully interoperable with the HomePlug AV broadband specification, the new HomePlug “Green PHY” (GP) specification for Smart Energy/Smart Grid applications, and the forthcoming HomePlug AV2 broadband specification due for completion in Q1 2011. HomePlug’s family of interoperable technology specifications covers the spectrum of home networking demands and offers a migration path to the future while protecting the installed base of over 60 million HomePlug devices, the vast majority of installed powerline products.


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