CES 2011 was quite exciting from the perspective of the powerline networking industry. G.hn silicon finally emerged from vaporware territory, and the initial demonstrations look promising. Of course, end products based on this silicon are probably 12 - 18 months away, but the threat for HomePlug is much more credible than what it was a year back. The absence of new silicon from the HomePlug vendors, as well as the distraction from IEEE P1905 will give a chance for the G.hn silicon vendors to catch up.

Though we didn't get a chance to look at Lantiq's offerings in the G.hn space, a look at their product brief [ PDF Link ] indicates that they are looking at their G.hn chip to enable hybrid platforms (extenders and multiple networking technologies in one product). The specs of the silicon from both Lantiq and Sigma Designs look similar. The backward compatibility with HomePNA and HomePlug AV/IEEE P1901 gives the Sigma silicon the theoretical edge.

It is the end consumer experience and improvements from proprietary algorithms such as ClearPath which will decide the winner in the G.hn silicon race. There are also a number of issues for G.hn itself to overcome in its fight against HomePlug. Interoperability with the already large installed base of HomePlug would be good, but this needs to be done without performance loss. It is good to see Sigma Designs taking the cue here and providing support for interoperability, but this should not be proprietary (as other G.hn silicon vendors don't want to implement this). There is still a lot of work left to be done in terms of software maturity and making the products carrier-grade. Controlling end product costs in the price sensitive retail consumer market will also be a challenge.

All said, we can't wait for G.hn products to hit consumers and the HomePlug forum to pull up their socks to counter the competition. It is an exciting time ahead for the powerline networking industry.

Atheros Smart Link Technology and Hybrid Networking Initiatives


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  • sabot00 - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - link

    This seems to be a great alternative to Wi-Fi and Ethernet systems.
    I personally would take an Wi-Fi + Ethernet system for its power but I can see the appeal.
  • mcnabney - Thursday, February 3, 2011 - link

    I would say that it is a very poor option to wifi.

    The key benefit is that there is no extension of the network outside of the home that an unscroupulous person could enter through.

    Of course that eliminates the use of laptops (unless plugged into a specific location), cell phones and tablets - which is the direction the market is going. Not sure what kind of future in Powerline-based solutions since it ignores the growing segments of the market (unless you consider desktops to be a growing market).
  • derkurt - Sunday, February 6, 2011 - link

    Actually, Powerline is often used in combination with Wi-Fi. More precisely, it is used to extend the network from the point of entry (i.e., DSL/cable modem) to some other place where an access point is connected to a powerline modem. This way, you can have a Wi-Fi network covering your entire home without having to use repeaters, which each cut throughput in half and double latency times, and also without having to install Ethernet, which can be impossible due to restrictions imposed by landlords or very expensive and aesthetically unpleasant in old houses, which do exist a lot in Europe. Reply
  • argosreality - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - link

    Interesting article and I always thought networking over powerlines was pretty logical but this article could use a bit more editing, I think. The first two pages have a quite a few things repeated and sometimes its hard to figure out where we're going with what. Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - link

    The blurb on the front page and the 'Introduction' section sometimes carry the same information because search engines directly link you to the Introduction section. This is intentional. People arriving via search engines need to get a background on what we are talking about too :) Reply
  • villageworker - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - link

    As a tech. installer, mainly in residential setting, I use powerline networking technology to solve networking issues only as a last resort. Reason being its a black box. Powerline either works or doesn't. Any thoughts on how either of these chip guys are addressing the diagnostic tools issue? Reply
  • blokeuk - Thursday, February 3, 2011 - link

    How this adapters slip thru the FCC net is beyond me, everybody knows that you cant transfer high frequency thru powerline normal cables thats why we have cat5 cat6 cables and so on, these units are wireless units that work on Shortware (HF radio amateurs , airtraffic controllers AM radio) for 100Mb and Shortwave and Ultra Shortwave (HF+VHF FM , TV and so on) for 1Gb so insted using an antenna they use Powerlines to transmit and the reciever is connected to the same antenna eg. the same powerline to receive the transmittion. PLA FDM is so wide it interfere with everything all across the bands.


    These are not electrical comunication devices they are radio comunication devices
    If you cant install cat cables use normal 2.4Gh wi-fi instead Shortwave Wi-Fi
    These frequencies are needed for Fire Truckes Police and emergency services please dont jam.

    Thanks in advance and greetings from UK.

    PS. Anand should do RF test on these devices when reviewing PLA.
  • lebarle - Thursday, February 3, 2011 - link

    I don't know a lot about it, but I think blokeUK is making a very good point and would like to see what ANANDTECH can find out about it. All of our nifty electronic devices must share this limited spectrum. just looking at the first two videos listed in the blokeUK entry it would seem these powerline devices are VERY noisy and will interfere with my wireless house phones and yes maybe my neighbors police band reciever. If we raise a fuss here maybe the FCC can address this noise source before a lot of these devices get installed. Reply
  • Per Hansson - Thursday, February 3, 2011 - link

    I can confirm your suspicions
    I recently bought the Belkin Gigabit Powerline HD networking kit

    It managed to do 5Mbps over my powerlines, an apartment built 1990.
    When I turned on my FM radio there was an amazing amount of noise in the reception when I was transmitting data, less so when I was not transmitting data but still some pops and cracks in the reception.
    When I unplugged the adapter the reception became perfect.

    Next test was to run the powerline adapter from the apartment out into my garage, the speed now dropped to 1Mbps...
    To my surprise though it managed to even interfere with the FM reception in my car!
    The signal got way harder to receive, it did not crack and pop in the audio tho, but I think that may simply be due to the fact that the stereo in my car is much better at receiving a signal, and the fact that the car itself acts like a faraday cage...

    To say the least I returned this "Gigabit" junk
  • epobirs - Thursday, February 3, 2011 - link

    Those of us who have actually used powerline technologies know that blokeuk is completely wrong and those videos are nonsense. These devices are regulated by the FCC in the US. You know, the same FCC that also deals with the prospect of broadband over power transmission lines, with far greater potential consequence for RF comms. We simply haven't seen the same problems here because they were largely hammered out in advance.

    First of all, it's no great revelation that these are RF devices. It's little different than using coaxial lines in your home to transmit signals originally designed for over the air broadcast to multiple TVs. Guess what? Decades ago, when they started running coax through houses, ham operators took to whining and the FCC took on new responsibilities. A lot of gear on the market long ago is essentially illegal now. Today's spectrum is pretty well managed here. I work with a lot of RF geeks who are involved in emergency services support. None of them has voiced a complaint with powerline equipment sold in this market.

    Wi-Fi is not an alternative for many and that number is growing. Wireless is shared spectrum and in many places the spectrum is severely overused. As most ISP are now supplying new customers with Wi-Fi routers there are whole neighborhoods where it has become essentially useless in large patches due to competing overlapping APs. At CES this year the problem was endemic. The head of Nvidia begged audience members during a keynote presentation to shut off the Wi-Fi portion of their phones because it was preventing him from running a demo using wireless. This is a growing problem that isn't getting much attention.

    Powerline isn't going to interfere with your cordless phone. These are far more common than Ham gear in households and would quickly put any powerline vendor out of business if that was the case. Ham operators are pretty thin on the ground compared to teenage girls.

    As mentioned by another commenter, a far bigger complaint, from an installer's perspective, is knowing how powerline will behave in a particular building. Wiring can vary wildly. In my own condo speeds are fine between nodes on the same floor but drop to a small fraction for a node upstairs trying to talk to one downstairs. Few SOHO IT guys have the electrician's knowledge needed to really say what is going on when they get no signal at all between nodes.

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