When a company like Turkish STB maker Airties, which is one of the first to offer Wi-Fi for HD video, starts talking about powerline, you can be sure that it plans to move into the space. Given that Airties is an out-and-out Broadcom shop, the implication is that it will be done with Broadcom chips, even if it’s not done with Broadcom’s help.
The discussion that Peter White of Faultline recently had with Airties CTO Metin Ismail Taskin was aimed at the powerline method of home networking.
European operators will have problems trying to roll out any kind of powerline across Europe, whether that is HomePlug, HomePlug AV or the powerline element of G.hn, simply because of the way that parts of Europe are wired. Germany and his native Turkey and many other countries have buildings in which there are multiple power grids per home, while concentrated conurbations like Paris and Brussels have an inordinate number of multi-dwelling units where a single low-voltage power grid is shared by multiple residencies.
He also talked about interference on powerlines from other devices and said that the humble handset re-charger was one of the worst device profiles for this and they are on the rise, and pointed at attenuation on inferior-grade cabling and some examples of 3-phase electricity being in use. There is also interference created by powerline on VDSL (which operates in similar spectrum to powerline) when powerline emits an RF signal that penetrates the DSL cabling.
The European powerline market is a hodgepodge and each local market needs a different approach.
Airties is working on a single heterogeneous network, but perhaps wants to go a step beyond the P1905.1 standard, which allows applications and upper layer protocols to be agnostic to the underlying home networking technologies, by the addition of intelligence into the network so that this can be done to a set policy. If P1905 allows for either channel — powerline or Wi-Fi to be used — Airties is working on firmware to sit above this layer and control the process and intelligently aggregate bandwidth across them both. We think this would rather resemble a mesh networking system, which intelligently samples the available routes across both mediums and selected one, dynamically re-selecting periodically.
The end result would be very similar to the way Airties products work today in pure Wi-Fi, sampling different channels in both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz and deciding on which channel is going to be right for the HD video it is sending around the home. Typically the same algorithms it uses for this could be used for a combined solution, sitting as an application running on an SoC CPU above both the Wi-Fi and powerline MAC layers. Such a strategy would make it possible to move equipment to any country in Europe and be sure that HD video would make it around the home, opting for Wi-Fi where the walls are thin and there is little RF interference, and using powerline on appropriately configured power cables, and when there is little power interference going on.
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