Powerful Surround-Sound Wiring Solution?

Last week, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced that it is working to establish a single standard for high-data-rate home networking using the powerlines already installed in consumers' homes. Stating that it is "recognizing the need for a baseline technology standard," the CEA says it has invited integrated-home-systems industry stakeholders to participate in the creation of a standard for residential powerline networks, to be completed by year's end.

According to the CEA, a formal evaluation process is already underway, with the organization's Data Networking Subcommittee charged with the goal of selecting a single standard that "capitalizes on the consumer benefits associated with powerline networking."

The CEA hopes that this open process will result in a standard for a high-data-rate powerline networking technology with the ability to handle isochronous data (including audio, video, and voice telephony) and asynchronous data (shared Internet access and file transfer). Other stated goals are for the selected technology to be forward-compatible as higher-data-rate technologies are developed, and that it will not interfere with existing home control and automation standards.

Bill Rose, chair of the CEA's Home Networking Committee, states that they "are working toward the goal of a single standard, to be completed by the end of this year, that supports the needs of the audio, video, PC, and telephony industries. The home networking industry is looking to avoid conflicting standards on the powerline that could lead to confusion in the market and a delay in the availability of the powerlines for networking appliances in the home. As an internationally recognized Standards Developing Organization (SDO), CEA welcomes all interested companies and consortiums to participate in the process."

The CEA feels that networking over the powerlines can offer consumers many advantages: power outlets are located throughout the home; and the technology is expected to be cost-effective, while providing a simple way to install a network without new wiring. "The convenience of connecting devices through power outlets promises to provide a boost to networks in homes and will foster many new products and applications delivering entertainment, information access, and telephony services to consumers," says the CEA.

Ralph Justus, CEA vice president of technology and standards, explains that "last year CEA was asked by a number of the companies developing home networking technologies to select a single standard for home networking over powerlines from among the many approaches under development. These companies recognized the need for standards to avoid market and customer confusion that can result from a lack of standards and incompatible products."