IEEE 1901 Broadband over Powerline (BoPL) final standard published by IEEE

The IEEE 1901,standardi was finalized in December 2010 and published this week.  It is of keen interest to manufacturers and service providers rolling out home networking services such as smart energy, transportation and Local Area Networks (LANs).  The BoPL standard can be purchased at the IEEE’s website ( or accessed from the  IEEE Xplore Digital Library by IEEE Xplore subscribers.

IEEE 1901 compliant networking products will deliver 500 Mbps data rates in LAN applications, according to the IEEE.  In a last mile network it will be able to run over distances of up to 1500 meters.  That latter distance would support last mile transmission to and from Fiber to the Node or to the Neighborhood (with GPON likely used as the fiber point to multipoint transmission system)

The new IEEE 1901,standard leverages two different PHY layers: one based on OFDM modulation and another based on Wavelet modulation (as developed by HomePlug Powerline Alliance to transmit data over standard AC power lines of any voltage at transmission frequencies of less than 100 MHz).  One or both of these PHY layers can be included in standard compliant BoPL implementations.

Home Network Applications:  A service provider rolling out home networking services to consumers could use the BPL technology to complement wireless LAN coverage to overcome wireless LAN distance limitations and obstructions in a home or even to complement a hotel chain’s network WiFi coverage.   However, in that application BoPL will compete with MOCA- the cable based home networking distribution system  In the future, it will be one of the modes of ITU the all encompasing home networking standard that has yet to be deployed.

Vehicular Applications:  Using the data rates and range prescribed within the IEEE 1901 standard, leading edge developers can deliver audio visual entertainment to the seats of airplanes, trains and other mass transit vehicles, and enable electric vehicles to download a new entertainment playlist to the A/V system while the car is charging overnight.

Other Applications:   Multimedia data will be carried over longer distances in hotels and other multistory buildings to complement wireless networks.  For many years it was thought that would be the “killer app” for VDSL, but it still hasn’t happened yet.  Instead, it seems like hotels, multi-tenant buildings, and high rise office buildings may be able to use BoPL for high speed communication

This new IEEE 1901 standard has the potential to also help utilities, service providers, consumer electronics companies, smart-meter providers and home appliance manufacturers.

Light Reading’s Opinion:

Light Reading’s Cable Site Editor, Jeff Baumgartner, believes that this standard will be in competition with ITU He states,  “IEEE P1905.1, is being dressed up as a potential competitor because it would create an abstraction layer to manage those home networks that use a blend of physical layers. Because that IEEE work doesn’t necessarily involve new chips that might, for example, integrate Wi-Fi, HomePlug and MoCA on the same piece of silicon (though we’d never put it past Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) to tackle such an effort), backers view 1905 as complementary to what they’re doing. (See IEEE to Blend MoCA, Powerline & Wi-Fi .)

Ensuring that this coming abstraction layer works on top of was the “number-one topic” discussed at the 1905 kickoff meeting in December, claims Chano Gomez, the co-chair of the HomeGrid Forum committee (the marketing group behind and the business development director for Lantiq Deutschland GmbH . Lantiq makes Wi-Fi and chips, so it’s got an incentive to draft off any initiative that looks to ease the management of heterogeneous home networks.

He adds that “literally half the group was pushing for this idea,” including people representing the interests of Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Sigma Designs Inc. (Nasdaq: SIGM) and Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL) (which all happen to be in the camp). He also acknowledges that, unsurprisingly, the concept met with resistance from folks that aren’t developing products

Gomez says, a standard under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T) , is solving a different problem from IEEE’s 1905 project, so they should be viewed as harmonic helpers.

While uses a unified MAC and PHY to support coax, phoneline and powerline on the same chipset, 1905 looks to help manage myriad physical layers. In those instances, it may be managing a mix of home network devices that use Wi-Fi, Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) and Ethernet.

The IEEE standard will also look to create a meshing fabric that aggregates wireless and wired streams on the home network, and can switch automatically to another type of connection when one type starts to degrade in performance.

IEEE was not immediately available to discuss whether it’s already considering adding in 1905 at this stage of the project. But it’s early. Having a “stable draft” emerge within a year would be “an ambitious target,” 1905 Project Chair Paul Houze told Light Reading Cable last month. The 1905 working group has four meetings scheduled for this year, the next set for April 5 through 7 in Vienna.

Information posted by the working group expressly references technologies such as IEEE 1901 (Broadband over Power Line), 802.11, Ethernet and MoCA 1.1, with the caveat that the standard will be “extendable to work with other home networking technologies.”

That would suggest the window is open not just to but to technologies such as Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) .”

Other References:

Here’s the press release announcing the new IEEE 1901 standard:

Final IEEE 1901TM Broadband over Power Line Standard Now Published

For more information see:  

IEEE P1901 Standards Group web page

IEEE sets foundation for global powerline network standard, by FierceTelecom