Get Wired

Originally published in Personal Computer World as part of ‘Your media, anywhere

Get wired

Just when you thought you understood home networking, another standard comes along. This one’s called, and its backers think it’s going to be the next big thing in wired home networking. Wifi, so many people think, isn’t ideal for things like high definition video; as more and more people use it, congestion slows down performance.

Many homes already have some sort of cabling – power, phone lines, and the co-axial cables used for cable TV, so why not use that? None of it’s terribly new, of course – powerline networking devices are pretty popular, especially those based on the HomePlug AV standard – that won’t communicate with the earlier HomePlug products, or with powerline products using different standards, like Panasonic’s PLC or the DS2 system.

So, why do we need another new standard? The ITU’s is intended to bring together those three methods of cabling in the home, ideally on a single chip, and with the same low layer protocols used across the different cable types. That means that it’ll be much cheaper to support the different types of connection in a single box, for example the decoder supplied by a cable TV or phone company. If that box is connected to all your cables, anything else you hook up should be able to see all the other devices, whether they’re using mains, coaxial or phone cable connections. isn’t the only game in town, though – the IEEE P1901 standard covers powerline networking but, at present includes a range of communications standards that won’t necessarily talk to each other, and doesn’t insist that a product includes them all.

Neither nor P1901 is officially ratified yet – but the smart money’s on being the technology to look out for in future generations of home networking, for both powerline and other cable systems.

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