IEEE 1901 products incoming

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance (HPA) has begun certifying devices that use the recently-ratified IEEE 1901 specification.

Being the HPA the powerline equivalent of the Wi-Fi Alliance, in that it guarantees interoperability between (in this case) powerline devices, the Alliance is now merrily rubber-stamping said devices.

Powerline, in case you're living in a cave, is Ethernet through your electric installation. HomePlug AV, the standard by which the HPA had so far certified powerline network devices, is soon to be replaced by HomePlug AV2 which will bring about massive gains in bandwidth, in line with what punters need today for HD video streaming and some serious data transfers.

IEEE 1901 is a requirement for the future HomePlug AV2 certification but it's only one part of the upcoming AV2 equation. While being fully interoperable with the "old" HomePlug AV, this specification will provide five times the current bandwidth through the use of key technologies such as MIMO (aye, the same technology present in 802.11n). Theoretical maximum bandwidth on such a device would be of 600Mbps, and ironically, the HPA is promising it will deliver "near-theoretical maximum bandwidth" on these devices.

In theory this will also allow HPA-certified devices to communicate directly with Smart Grid, Smart Energy and electric vehicles, in other words, your electricity supplier could install a smart power meter in your house, and send data to and fro, as well as your electric car telling you when its belly is full and automatically switching off the power.

Despite the rather ambitious objective of replacing Ethernet and Wi-Fi in the home, Powerline has had a hard time due to its performance levels, latency, half-duplex nature and inability to deal with surge protection devices (like a UPS). It does have some serious upsides, such as AES data encryption and not needing to do home renewal just to run a couple of cables around the house, though.

This'll be Powerline's third breath. We wish it all the best.