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Chip makers unite to define unified home network tech

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Intel, Panasonic, Texas Instruments and Infineon have launched a bid to steer the development of a unified home networking platform - technology capable of combining coaxial, powerline and phone cabling.

The four firms today launched the HomeGrid Forum, which they said would seek to ensure the Internation Telcommunications Union (ITU) standards organisation's standardisation efforts come up with something helps vendors and service providers achieve their goals.

The ITU's ITU-T G.hn working group is currently developing a consistent MAC and PHY protocol that can operate over coax, phone and mains wiring. That would allow TVs, computers, set-top boxes and other multimedia machines to can capable of being networked across any or all of these cabling types.

With the standards in place, chip makers can produce parts that will allow the host device to connect to the network no matter which of the three cables are physically plugged into it.

Beyond influencing the development of the standard, HomeGrid will eventually position itself as the technology's equivalent of the Wi-Fi Alliance, overseeing the promotion of the technology and efforts to ensure interoperability between products from different vendors.

Panasonic's presence is interesting. It has been pushing its own powerline system, HD-PLC, for some time but late last year agreed to merge it with the HomePlug standard. The HomePlug Alliance competes with the Universal Powerline Assocation (UPA), which promotes a rival powerline technology developed by Spanish chip maker DS2.

Panasonic's presence as a HomeGrid director will surely favour HomePlug technology when it comes to the ITU-T G.hn's efforts to integrate powerline with the other cabling types.

Back to ITU-T G.hn - it's hoped to have a preliminary spec out later this year, though the final version isn't expected to appear until September 2009.

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