Trend: Powerline broadband gets second look

Something does not have to be new to be exciting. UWB, current difficulties notwithstanding, is one example. Broadband over powerline (BPL) is another. For a while the technology has suffered from image issues (emphasizing wires in an increasingly wireless world) and some technical glitches. However, as more and more conclude that a wired-wireless convergence is the way to go, and as technical problems are addressed, both government and industry are warming up to this venerable technology.

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance, a leading BPL group, has already said it would join the IEEE and the ETSI standardization structure, although not without some reservations. Last month the IEEE established a working group, P1901, to focus on BPL (although the move has been received with mixed emotions among veteran BPL players who believe their technology is far enough along to be subject to the notoriously slow-pace, and potentially divisive, IEEE process.

HomePlug has three main broadband platforms: 1.0 + AV for home networking; BPL for access over power lines; and home automation for low-bandwidth industrial or home-control applications. HomePlug 1.0 is limited to 14 Mbps, but the next-generation specification, HomePlug AV, will offer deliver 200 Mbps and backwards compatibility with 1.0. Note that San Jose, California-based Intellon has created an intermediate, non-standard version called Turbo, which delivers 85 Mbps performance. The Alliance is supported by big players, among them Intel, Cisco, Motorola, Comcast, EarthLink, RadioShack, Sharp, and Sony.

For more on the present and future of BPL:
- see this WirelessWatch discussion
- check out Intellon's website

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