P1905 Looms as Next Major Development in Home Networks

– Combines Ethernet, HomePlug, MoCA & Wi-Fi

Looming even larger than G.hn (HomeGrid) over wireline home networking is the very real possibility of the proposed P1905 IEEE specification. Under development since December 2010, it promises a single standard that will serve as a bridge to and from:

– Ethernet wiring
– HomePlug AV for electrical wires
– MoCA 1.1 for coax
– Perhaps most importantly, Wi-Fi

The new versions of HomePlug and MoCA that are under development are not included.

Noticeably missing are HomePNA that Sigma Technologies has been pushing and the coming G.hn for electrical, coax, telephone and Ethernet wires. The spec is being written so that other home network technologies could be added. A representative from HomePNA and the G.hn group said that they want their network technologies included in P1905.

It’s possible that the proposed P1905 is a ploy to prevent G.hn’s success.
Including Wi-Fi gives it the advantage of having a wireless capacity, which is something no other wireline standard has. For example, consumers could use MoCA or HomePlug to wire a bedroom where the Wi-Fi reception is weak from the central Wi-Fi router. A P1905/Wi-Fi adapter could be used for the last 10 feet or so to a TV set with Netflix or some other OTT service.

Including MoCA gives P1905 a major advantage in gaining a large base of compatible installations that includes the world’s cablecos plus Verizon and DirecTV.

Broadband and pay-TV service providers find it very difficult to switch home network standards. There are lots of people to train, thousands of installation trucks that need some of the new gear and warehouses that have to be stocked with the new technology. It would cost the providers that have standardized on MoCA billions of dollars. They would need an overwhelming technology breakthrough, an enormous reduction in costs, or both to make a change that does not include MoCA compatibility.

The P1905 Gang
A group has been set up under the auspices of the IEEE to develop P1905.1. It held its first meeting in December 2010. Atheros, Broadcom, Cisco, Entropic, Intel, Marvell, Toshiba and others are writing a draft standard.

France Telecom Orange is a main pusher, the same France Telecom that backed G.hn in its early days. “As there is not a single networking technology that ideally addresses all of today’s applications, platforms, and environments, IEEE P1905.1 represents a fundamental advancement for home networking,“ said Paul Houzé of France Telecom-Orange, and chair, IEEE P1905.1 Working Group. “Creating a bridge between the world’s most popular wired and wireless technologies will bring much-needed synergy, making home networks easier to use and elevating their overall performance.“

Current Voting Member of P1905
Atheros Intel
Broadcom Lantiq
Cisco Marvell
Entropic Panasonic
France Telecom Sigma Designs
HD-PLC Alliance SPiDCOM Technologies
HomeGrid Forum (G.hn) STMicroelectronics
HomePNA Alliance Toshiba
The HomePlug Alliance and MoCA are not members. However, HomePlug chipmakers Atheros and Sigma Designs are members, along with MoCA chipmakers Entropic and Broadcom.

The P1905 group said the effort is an attempt “to support an expanding array of connected

The P1905 group said the effort is an attempt “to support an expanding array of connected consumer electronics, such as televisions, computers, game consoles and smartphones.“ It might have added tablets because it now looks as if every first-world country will have at least one, maybe two or three.

Sharing digital content, the group said, “requires a standard capable of uniting disparate wired and wireless elements into a hybrid home network.“ A built-in QoS would automatically switch to a different network scheme if the one being used degrades.

The objectives of the P1905 group are:
– Streamline network performance by dynamically managing packets from different wireless or wired interfaces.
– Maximize bandwidth to ensure reliable content delivery across all home networking technologies.
– Facilitate installation, setup and management plus provide better diagnostics and controls.
– Increase device cooperation, communication and co-existence in home networks.
– Enable active path selection for maximum traffic efficiency and network load balancing.
– Energy management for optimized power consumption.

The proposed standard calls for an abstraction layer that supports multiple home networking technologies. It is inclusive, not exclusive.

The abstraction layer would provide for:
– A common data and control service access point to all the home networking technologies.
– Packets arriving from upper protocol layers or underlying network technologies.
– End-to-end Quality-of-Service (QoS), which is very important to the pay-TV services.

The specs will include procedures, protocols and guidelines to add devices, set up encryption keys, extend network coverage and provide network management features, such as neighbor and topology discovery, path selection, QoS negotiation and network control.

Any and Every Device
Perhaps the most important aspect of P1905 is that it could eventually be built into TV sets, Blu-ray players and smart TV adapters like Apple TV and Boxee’s many boxes, assuming the price of the chips is a reasonable add-on cost. That would make P1905 the standard for home networking, and it would truly deliver plug and play.

Broadcom’s Views
We asked Broadcom’s technical director Stephen Palm about P1905. Broadcom is an active member in the P1905 movement.

Palm: The standard will benefit all broadband and pay-TV service providers because they are also deploying their services to mobile/tablet devices as well as to wireline devices like TV sets and PCs.

TOR: How long could it take to get to a standard? To get chips? 2012?

Palm: Chips are expected late 2011 or 2012, but always depends on the IEEE process. For some vendors that already offer multiple network interface technologies, it is a software upgrade.

TOR: Will it be an expensive chipset?

Palm: Some vendors are very adept at combining several technologies and specifications into cost-effective SoCs.

TOR: Shouldn’t DLNA have done this? Isn’t that what DLNA is about? Multiple network technologies inside one interface?

Palm: P1905 is basically an enhancement to layer-2 (MAC) functionality. Technically it is a bit more. P1905 wraps and abstracts one or multiple MAC/PHYs. From the application (e.g., DLNA and others) point of view, P1905 will be seen as a “single“ device instead of different MAC/PHYs, each requiring a unique management, security and QoS method.

While DLNA points to some layer-2 technologies such as Wi-Fi, Ethernet and MoCA, the bulk of the DLNA specification is at layer-3 and above.

P1905 is the kind of technology that DLNA could point to in the future.

Next Generation MoCA & HomePlug
MoCA 2.0 reportedly has 400 Mbps of net throughput compared to the existing MoCA 1.1’s 175 Mbps. A channel-bonded version of 2.0 will operate at 800 Mbps. Production of devices with MoCA 2.0 are expected in early 2012.

HomePlug v2 reportedly offers net throughputs in the 200 Mbps to 500 Mbps range compared to the existing HomePlug AV’s 40 Mbps to 90 Mbps range.

The new MoCA 2.0 and HomePlug v2 will reportedly interoperate with their existing standard.

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