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IEEE fails to agree on powerline Ethernet standard

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The organisation charged with putting in place a standard for networking over mains wiring has once again failed to elect one of the two competing specifications as its choice.

Last week, members of the IEEE P1901 Working Group met in Miami to vote on the confirmation of a joint proposal from Panasonic and the HomePlug Alliance (HPA). However, the proposal failed to win the approval of at least 75 per cent of the Group's participants.

The exact outcome of the ballot isn't known. The HPA claimed the vote was "very close". Maybe, but close isn't good enough, and now the process goes back a step. At the next Working Group meeting, to be held in Madrid in September, the HPA and Panasonic will get a second chance to have the proposal elected.

If that vote goes against them, then they will once again have to persuade the Working Group that their technology is better than the rival one proposed by the Universal Powerline Association (UPA), which is promoting powerline technology from Spanish chip company DS2.

The HPA proposal won more support than UPA's alternative specification at a P1901 meeting held in November 2007. However, it failed to win 75 per cent more of the vote at the subsequent confirmation ballot, which was held on 11 December 2007. In April 2008, the HPA once again out-polled the UPA proposal, paving the way for this month's vote.

At issue is the HPA and Panasonic proposal's need to support two separate PHYs - the part of the system that sends data out over the physical network link. HomePlug's technology and Panasonic's HD-PLC are not compatible, which is why their joint proposal has to make room for both, to ensure they can be made interoperable, which is what IEEE P1901 is all about.

The HPA said it and its partners will continue to work to improve the specification in the hope it will come up to snuff for the Working Group members who've thus far voted against it.

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