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IEEE powerline networking group selects HomePlug AV

Will choice be confirmed at second ballot?

The IEEE has moved a step closer to establishing the HomePlug AV brand of powerline Ethernet networking as the basis for a future mains networking standard. But its adoption is not yet a certainty.

The latest round of balloting on the IEEE P1901 specification took place last month. Two options were put to the vote: a proposal jointly fielded by the HomePlug Alliance (HPA), HiSilicon and Panasonic, and a second by the Universal Powerline Association (UPA).

The first proposal won, 28 votes to 13.

That's a blow for Spanish chip maker DS2. It's version of 200Mbps powerline Ethernet came to market before the same-speed HomePlug AV technology and the two have remained in opposition ever since. DS2's system is promoted by the UPA which, the HPA, is keen to establish itself as the standard for in-house mains-based networking, an approach widely seen as the ideal foundation for streaming HD content around the home.

Hence Panasonic's interest. Its pitch is called HD-PLC (HD Power Line Communications), and it's likewise backed by a trade organisation, this time the Consumer Electronics Powerline Communication Alliance (CEPCA), a body backed by most of the major Japanese consumer electronics companies.

Panasonic and the HPA merged their proposals into one based on a single MAC (Media Access Control) specification aligned each of the two bodies' two PHY physical layers. Should their proposed specification become the standard, existing HomePlug AV and HD-PLC kit would be compatible with it.

But standardisation is not yet certain. The IEEE P1901 working group meets again on 11 December in San Diego. At that meeting, participants will vote on whether to confirm the majority choice expressed in the October vote. If the Panasonic-HPA proposal fails to win 75 per cent of the vote, it will have to go through the process again.

The voting process has held up putative standards before, such as the early proposals for 802.11n high-speed wireless networking. And it positively ground development of an ultrawideband standard to a halt when rival parties could not come to an accord.

IEEE P1901 covers not only low-voltage, in-home powerline networking, but also the delivery of broadband services over high-voltage lines into the home.

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