LONDON SiConnect, a U.K. start-up, will start sampling soon a powerline transceiver IC that it claims overcomes the reliability, safety and cost issues holding back other protocols for networking video, data, audio and voice around the home.
Its proprietary protocol, dubbed POEM, uses a Synchronous Multiple Access / Contention Resolution (SMA/CR) scheme and an inbuilt QoS management structure that delivers 16 different service levels for prioritizing traffic.
According to Trevor Sokell, CEO of the Swindon, England based chip developer, "traditional Ethernet cabling or emerging wireless networks are just not up the job, and all other powerline technologies proposed that rely on spread spectrum techniques will not offer the kind of quality of service needed.
"They also need a lot of power and silicon, and are thus more expensive than the approach we have been working on, which is based on 150 man years of design effort. Our POEM technology will deliver managed QoS, a true plug and play user experience, privacy protection, full compliance with global EMC regulations, and a $5 chip price."
Ethernet-like technologies, that rely on an asynchronous Carrier Sense Multiple Access / Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) protocol, cannot provide the consistent quality of service that's needed for home networking, said Sokell. He also maintains that all other powerline protocols proposed that rely on spread spectrum techniques and OFDM are too expensive since they need high levels to avoid interference peaks and high redundancy to minimize transmission losses.
Initially, the devices will be targeted at makers of set top boxes such as Philips, Thomson and Pace.
The company will be trying to get its technology to be promoted by the Home Gateway Initiative, an effort for home networking driven mainly by carriers such as BT, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom , Telefonica and NTT and in which the chip maker is an active participant.
Sokell maintains SiConnect's approach is not necessarily in competition with other powerline networking technologies and specifications that have been proposed by groups such as HomePlug Powerline Alliance or the proprietary protocol being pushed by Panasonic, and that the company is an active member of the IEEE P1901 working group charged with trying to get an industry standard for powerline networking.
POEM is basically a peer-to-peer meshed network topology that can use all available power sockets around the home, with each node acting as a repeater and able to control latency and jitter.
Sokell maintains the data throughput of a "real, not headline" 14Mbit/s from the first iteration of the chip will be sufficient to meet current needs for applications such as real time delivery of MPEG streams and uncompressed audio, such as needed for IPTV and home theater systems. The second version of the chip will push data rates to nearer 30Mbit/s for HDTV and other bandwidth hunger requirements.
The first chips will be made by Chartered Semiconductor on a 0.18 micron process, with the second due to be done on a 0.13 micron technology.
The parts are designed to operate within global EMC regulations and comply with Europe's EN55022 regulation for conducted emissions and EN55024 regulation for immunity to interference. The technology is said to meet the requirement of the USA's FCC part 15 regulations for radiated emissions and CISPR 22 and CISPR 24 regulations in the rest of the world.
SiConnet was formed last year and has secured £2.8 million investment from TTP Ventures, Prelude Ventures and Dow Chemical. However its roots in powerline technology go back further, having acquired nSine, a U.K. centre of excellence for broadband over powerline technology.