SAN JOSE, Calif. The ITU released a key part of its pending G.hn standard. The spec aims to create unified home networking chips able drive throughput rates ranging from 50 to more than 700 Mbits/second over coax, phone or power lines.
The ITU-T G.9960 specification issued Friday (Dec. 12) defines a physical layer needed to start development of such chips. A companion spec for a media access controller that could be implemented in firmware is expected to be complete as early as September 2009.
If all goes well, a wide range of companies active in the standard including Atheros, Coppergate, Infineon, Intel, Intellon, Panasonic, Texas Instruments and others could ship chips by mid 2010. A broad group of vendors formed the HomeGrid Forum in May to throw their support behind the G.hn standard.
The market for wired home networks has been fragmented to date with one or more different standards for each type of wiring. That fact has made some systems makers and service providers skittish about committing to any one technology, an impediment chip makers and analysts believe the new standard could eliminate.
In the absence of a wired standard, Wi-Fi has become a dominant home network technology. However, to date carriers have said it is not up to the job of carrying video across the home.
"The industry is at an inflection point for the first time there is a global standard for all three media types," said Michael Weissman, vice president of North American marketing at Coppergate Communications, a maker of home net chips used by AT&T and others. "With this agreement on a physical layer, the race is on to implement this new standard," he added.
The G.hn standard specifies physical layer data rates up to a Gbit/second. It is expected to enable data throughput at rates up to 800 Mbits/s over coax lines.
It's unclear what throughput levels the standard could support on relatively noisy telephone and power lines. Weismann said he believes G.hn could enable throughput of at least 100 Mbits/s on powerline—about twice current rates—and chips could deliver as much as 400 Mbits/s, he said.
"You will have to implement it to know for sure, but if you could deliver 100 Mbits/s, it's a huge, huge win," he added.
Weismann said he expects about half a dozen companies will field silicon based on G.hn by mid-2010, including some silicon core providers. Some may try to differentiate products by being backward compatible with today's powerline or coax technologies.
Many analysts were quick to praise the ITU milestone
"Service operators have been looking for an international standard that encompasses multiple wired mediums for video distribution," said Joyce Putscher, a principal analyst a In-Stat, in a press release from the ITU. "G.hn meets that requirement, and it seems clear that with significant industry backing from service providers, semiconductor and equipment vendors, and the fast rate at which the process is moving to achieve a standard, we will see first equipment by 2010."
"If G.hn sees integration into carrier devices by 2010, we expect that some 42 million G.hn-compliant nodes will ship in 2013 in devices such as set-top boxes, residential gateways and other service provider CPE hardware," said Michael Wolf, a research director at ABI Research.
"This [standard] will enable seamless communication between computers, HDTVs and telephones over existing wires," said Malcolm Johnson, director of the ITU's telecom standards bureau, speaking in the release. "I expect that this exciting new technology will also foster innovations such as energy efficient smart appliances, home automation and telemedicine devices," he added.
"We believe ITU's work is an important step towards eliminating fragmentation in the industry and in achieving the vision of a networked home," added Kurt Scherf, analyst with Parks Associates.
Meanwhile, a separately effort to unify competing powerline networking approaches continues to drag on the IEEE 1901 committee. The group is expected to convene in Kyoto next week to re-visit proposals that failed to win a majority of votes at earlier meetings.