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Power line Charges Ahead But Alternatives Abound


Editor's Note

Power line Charges Ahead But Alternatives Abound

Digital technology often means there is more than one way to accomplish a task. Thus it is that multiple choices are available for new data communications infrastructures. For some time, service providers and government agencies, among others, have been weighing the respective merits of Multimedia Over Coaxial cable (MoCA), the Home Phone Networking Alliance (HPNA 3.0), and variations of powerline communications (PLC), like HomePlug.

According to ABI Research, "While MoCA has the highest actual throughput for home networking, today the technology can operate only over coax(ial cable). Many see HPNA 3.0's ability to run over cither coax or copper phone wiring as its biggest advantage, but point to HPNA's frequency overlap with VDSL as a concern. HomePlug AV's selling point is that it uses the dwelling's existing powerline wiring to distribute high-speed data, but the technology has yet to see major rollout by a large video service ."

Since October, however, the ball has started rolling, at least for some forms of PLC. On Dec. 15, the NTT Group in Japan announced plans to begin a PLC service. In this system, a master PLC modem superimposes communications signals on 50Hz or 6()Hz electrical signals, which the power lines then distribute inside the home. At the terminal, a PLC satellite modem connects to the outlet, while the terminals themselves use local area network (LAN) cabling.

In essence, the system operates like asynchronous digital subscriber lines (ADSLs), which superimpose communications signals on phone lines. PLC's advantages are that it does not require the installation of new lines, while the use of wires prevents signal breakup.

Other companies are making other choices. ABI Research notes, "Verizon's choice of MoCA and AT&T's adoption of" HPNA 3.0 show a market today split between various technologies." The researchers add, "...MoCA will lead in overall connections (in the U.S. market) due to strong uptake in North America among 1PTV and cable providers. HPNA 3.0 will see some adoption among IPTV providers and possibly cable ..HomePlug will see more limited deployment, but will have greater traction overall in Europe." ABI also predicts that the three technologies collectively will account for 45 million connections on set-top boxes and residential gateways by .

Such numbers are enough to make developers sit up and take notice. In Japan, the NTT Group's nod toward PLC has attracted the attention of Preminet, whose investors include Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (Panasonic), Alps Electric Co., Ltd., Macnica. Inc., Kinden Corp., and Yitran. Additionally Taisei Corp. and Panasonic Systems Solutions Co. co-developed a prototype PLC system to form an Internet protocol (IP) network from a public-address system. Other companies have developed chip modules containing complete PLC modems. Japanese industry observers predict that various electronic products soon will adopt these modems, providing high-speed data communications in a manner wholly transparent to consumers. JEI