HomePlug moving beyond adapters to built-in networking

HomePlug powerline network backers look to built-in adapters as the ticket to Wi-Fi-like volume

HomePlug networks that use the electrical wires in your home to transfer data are distributed by some of the world's biggest broadband providers and available at major retail stores, but even HomePlug's cheerleader in chief calls it a "niche" technology, at least compared to Wi-Fi.

The future lies in products that have HomePlug connectivity built in, as opposed to requiring an adapter that dangles from the power socket. There are some products with the technology built in on the market already, and some new ones are being shown at CES, such as a TV from Hisense and a music extender from Netgear.

HomePlug is one of the main wired technologies being used to link appliances and consumer electronics throughout homes. Shipped in just over 100 million chipsets in its history, it uses electrical wire as a backbone, while another home technology, MOCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance), uses coaxial cable. Both are also-rans compared with Wi-Fi, which has shipped in more than 1 billion products and is the form of home network that most consumers are familiar with.

The wired networks are often just backbones between Wi-Fi routers and repeaters. But while consumers rely on Wi-Fi to keep their tablets, phones and laptops online, HomePlug can be more reliable than wireless and is appropriate for "anything you plug in," said Rob Ranck, president of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance.

At HomePlug's small booth at CES, Ranck showed off a handful of consumer electronics products with built-in HomePlug. They included a media player from French manufacturer Lea, which can encode video from various sources and stream it to a TV via HDMI, and a music extender from Netgear that takes in digital audio and sends it as an analog signal to stereo systems. There was also a D-Link Wi-Fi router with built-in HomePlug.

A flashier example is the Hisense XT880 smart TV, on display in the Chinese TV maker's CES booth. It can stream online content from Pandora, Hulu, Netflix and other sources directly through its power cord using HomePlug technology, which Hisense labels as PLC (Power Line Communication). Consumers in the U.S. should be able to get the XT880 in May, Hisense said. No price has been disclosed.

In a crucial move for mainstream adoption, HomePlug is also getting faster. The HomePlug AV2 standard, completed last year, should start to show up in products late this year, Ranck said. It will deliver between 80M bps (bits per second) and 200M bps with a two-prong power plug and 200M bps to 500M bps with a three-prong plug. HomePlug AV2 uses the third "ground" prong, where sockets are available, for an extra stream of data. HomePlug AV2's throughput is two to five times the performance of the current version, HomePlug AV, Ranck said.

HomePlug is also getting wider support from chip makers, overcoming its association with a single supplier, the former Intellon business that is now part of Qualcomm. That company still makes more than half of all HomePlug chips, but others are jumping in, including Broadcom and Sigma Designs Ranck said. At CES, the Alliance networked together gear made with different vendors' chips to show they are interoperable.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags CESconsumer electronicsNetworkingHomePlug Powerline Alliancehisense

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?