On Thursday March 9, 2006 the Universal Powerline Association (UPA), announced the completion of the first version of its “Digital Home Standard” (DHS) high-speed powerline networking specification. This specification is designed to be a robust field-proven industry specification upon which OEMs can build compatible products to enable the digital home. A final version of the DHS specification will be released later this year.
According to a UPA news release, the specification is the only one, which is available to enable the digital home for high-definition video streaming, online gaming, and audio distribution throughout the entire house for a competitive price and without having to install new cabling.
Peter Sobotka, Chairman of the UPA DHS Working Group, stated, “The specification is remarkably innovative and, also validated by the market; it is the only specification designed to work harmoniously with broadband access powerline equipment, based on the OPERA standard and it has been developed according to the clear-cut processes of the UPA.”
Work on the specification began in early 2005, with a market requirements document, submitted for input to leading service providers, PC manufacturers and other potential powerline chipset providers. The requirements were validated with a set of worldwide laboratory and field trials with over 40 tier one telecommunication and cable companies. The UPA has complimented the specification with a set of Plug Tests, which ensure the interoperability of equipment from different manufacturers and demonstrate coexistence between networks
I spoke with Jorge Blasco, CEO of DS2 (Design of Systems on Silicon) about the BPL or Broadband over Powerline market and some of the challenges facing the industry. DS2 supplies the 200 Mbps technology that enables home networking and broadband access over Powerline, coaxial cable, and telephone wire.
GG: Some of my readers may be unaware of what BPL is. Can you describe what the technology promises to deliver?
JB: BPL or Broadband Internet Access is one branch of an exciting new technology known as Powerline Communications that allows the humble socket in homes anywhere to be used to transmit high-speed video, audio, and data signals either alone or as an extension of any other broadband technology. This means that customers regardless of where they are located can subscribe to a robust Internet access service. This is especially important in rural areas and emerging economies where no alternative Internet access provision exists. Electricity is almost ubiquitous, making Powerline Communications a competitive alternative in areas without choice but also a real option in urban areas because no new cabling is needed and DS2 based equipment can be quickly and easily deployed. In fact, the largest commercial deployments are in urban areas in Hong Kong in parts of
GG: How big is the BPL market expected to be?
JB: In a recent report, Telecom Trends International estimates that the BPL-Access services market generated $118 Million in revenue in 2004. Broadband powerline access is available to around 3million people worldwide, of which 315,000 subscribers have selected powerline for their Internet access service. By the year 2011, the number of subscribers is expected to grow to more than 20million representing $4.4 Billion in service revenue.
GG: What are some of the challenges associated with streaming such bandwidth intensive applications such as video?
JB: DS2 has designed with multimedia in mind from the start and for this reason key factors such as jitter, packet loss rate, and latency have been overcome. Alternative technologies have not achieved this. DS2 Powerline Communications technology provides whole home coverage without drilling a single hole or extending any structured cabling and simple self-installation is possible today. The competitive pressures in the broadband market are forcing telecommunications service providers to offer more complete services such as the provision of “triple play” services consisting of video, voice, and data networked around the home.
DS2 technology supports advanced multimedia quality of service transmission expanding the range of services that can be offered without compromising on quality. Operators can feel confident that their systems will be able to support the increasing range of services that subscribers demand, from the extreme latency requirements of home gaming to the enormous bandwidth requirement of HDTV. Consumers benefit from gaining access to a technology that provides the only universal solution for whole home networking transmitting high-quality digital video anywhere in the home.
GG: What about voice? Is quality of service an issue that needs to be considered?
JB: Provision of telephony services over Powerline is certainly a critical application, and most powerline access deployments using DS2 technology provide VoIP as an option, so there are already tens of thousands of paying subscribers out there. DS2's powerline technology is the only one capable of supporting voice over IP because of its advanced “Deterministic” Quality of Service (QoS) features. Deterministic QoS denotes the ability of a communication technology to differentiate traffic into different types and priorities its transmission over the network in a manner that is 100 percent predictable. It is critical to ensure the correct transmission of services where performance characteristics such as bandwidth in the case of video and transmission delay in the case of voice over IP need to be preserved in the presence of other traffic. Without quality of service a low priority transmission such as that for Web browsing, could interrupt video and audio transmissions dramatically reducing performance. This is generally experienced by the end-user as the appearance of pixelization (macro-blocks) in the case of video transmission, and sound glitches in the case of audio. DS2’s QoS features have overcome these problems and that is why DS2 technology is used commercially for QoS sensitive services such as triple play.
GG: What about interference from other signals in the home?
JB: As with most communications technologies, there is some potential for interference from other signals in the home, WiFi, for example is severely degraded with the microwaves thrown out by microwave ovens (you can try the experiment at home). In the case of powerline, most interference from electrical motors, televisions, etc., occur at low frequencies where they have absolutely no effect on powerline transmissions, making powerline a much more robust technology from this standpoint.
GG: Any other comments?
JB: As the industry leader, DS2 is the widely accepted specification for broadband Internet access and is working with the recognized global industry boards to set the worldwide standard for powerline home networking. DS2’s chips power the products that make the digital home a reality today by enabling broadband Internet access and powerline home networking in a user-friendly way.