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Group Seeks Consensus For Powerline Standard

Osaka, Japan – The fledgling CE Powerline Communication Alliance (CEPCA) is targeting a summertime release of an interoperability standard that allows multiple powerline-communication (PLC) network standards to share the same electric wires in a house without interference.

CEPCA is “in the final process of drafting bylaws and considering the make-up of alliance members,” said a spokesman for Panasonic parent Matsushita. “We don’t think it will take a long time to complete the specification working process,” the spokesman said, because “CEPCA focuses on the resolution of the co-existence issue among the different types of PLC systems existing in the real market,” not on defining a PLC standard itself.

Matsushita joined Sony and Mitsubishi Electric early this year to announce plans to form the group and is recruiting “other global major CE companies” to join, the spokesman said. “We have heard a lot of supportive opinions about CEPCA from other CE companies. We will officially announce calls for participation to CEPCA in April.”

Panasonic pledged that its powerline-based HD-PLC technology, capable of transmitting multiple HDTV streams over a home’s electric wires, will eventually conform to the planned interoperability standard. HD-PLC delivers a data ate of 170Mbps over powerlines, enough to simultaneously deliver two HD streams and possibly three under ideal conditions, the company said. It is also suitable for voice-over-IP (VoIP) applications.

Matsushita said it is eager to develop interoperability standards now because of the advent of planned high-speed PLC technologies, including its own. High-speed PLC will be “a very important technology for the future home network solution,” the spokesman said. The company doesn’t want to repeat the experience of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, which it helped establish in 2000 to establish a single standard in the PLC market, he said. “Today there are a number of types of PLC systems that are not compliant with the HomePlug standard,’’ the spokesman said.

Because of the importance of high-speed PLC in the home, “we changed our strategy in a more realistic view,” he continued. The company is “not pursuing the single standard but pursuing coexistence with other PLC systems.” All types of PLC systems use the same bandwidth, he said. “If they do not share a common co-existence scheme, they will interfere with each other. As a result, all systems cannot work well.”

Panasonic and other manufacturers “need to provide and guarantee high-quality products and service to our customers,” he said. “If any troubles occurred with the PLC or CE products connected via PLC in the market, customers would bring their problems to CE companies first. So co-existence is the crucial issue for CE companies.”

“We expect all PLC systems in the consumer market will comply with the co-existence scheme made by CEPCA,” he claimed.

Whether the first HD-PLC chips from Matsushita will incorporate the interoperability spec isn’t certain. Panasonic plans to supply HD PLC chips by the spring and market consumer products worldwide by the end of the year in countries whose regulations allow for PLC. The first products will be Ethernet-to-powerline adapters for use with any IP-based product, including PCs, IP phones, and IPTV, the spokesman said.