HomePlug Networks to Pick Up Speed
NAPA, CALIFORNIA -- Less than a year after the first HomePlug products shipped, the trade group behind that networking standard is preparing for the sequel. The HomePlug Powerline Alliance has announced plans for a faster, more multimedia-friendly upgrade to the standard for networks using existing electrical wires.
The next-generation spec will be called HomePlug AV rather than HomePlug 2.0. The group wants to emphasize the standard's accessibility to the target home users, as well as its goal of promoting video streaming and audiophile-quality sound in homes, says Tom Reed, HomePlug Powerline Alliance president. The announcement came Thursday at the organization's third annual meeting in this wine-country town.
"The quicker we can move away from PC-to-PC networking and to consumer-electronics networking, the better it's going to be," Reed says.
While the speed of HomePlug AV is not yet determined, Reed says streaming high-definition TV requires 20 megabits per second. The current HomePlug 1.0 spec tops out at 14 megabits per second, slightly faster than Wi-Fi wireless networks.
But speed alone won't distinguish HomePlug AV from
Ethernet and Wi-Fi don't currently offer any quality-of-service features. The IEEE is working on a Wi-Fi quality-of-service variant, 802.11e, but HomePlug proponents say that effort is hampered by inherent problems in Wi-Fi's underlying ethernet architecture.
Another goal of the new HomePlug spec--competitive pricing--is already being realized by newer HomePlug 1.0 devices. Linksys adapters that were introduced at $149 are already selling for $99, and vendors at Wednesday's meeting said adapters should soon be available for as little as $79. That would put HomePlug on a par, pricewise, with 11-mbps Wi-Fi. Ethernet is the next most popular home networking standard.
HomePlug adapters are also getting smaller. The first ones were heavy brick-size devices with cables at either end--one terminating in a standard plug for a wall outlet, and another in either an ethernet or USB connector. But newer models will be about the size of a PDA AC adapter, and will dispense with one of the cables by plugging directly into a wall outlet.
These smaller, cheaper
Radio Shack's Pete Griffin said the standard's use of existing electrical wiring in homes may put off consumers who remember being told as children never to put their fingers in electrical outlets.
And Cahners In-Stat analyst Mike Wolf told organization members that HomePlug is a promising technology that faces a tough battle in gaining consumer awareness and market share.
"The market is in its infancy," he noted, adding that HomePlug's timing isn't great because of the economy. "Equipment vendors aren't willing to gamble on new technology."
Wi-Fi has a commanding lead over HomePlug in
The next-generation spec's multimedia features could also prove compelling, he added. "It's definitely the way they need to go."