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HomePlug AV Gets CES Demo; Products Seen As Early As Q2

Las Vegas – Chipmaker Intellon demonstrated HomePlug AV-standard adapters that turn a home’s 110-volt power lines into an A/V network that can simultaneously share two high-definition video streams, multiple music streams, VoIP telephone conversations and broadband data access.

Intellon demonstrated sample silicon and sample powerline-to-Ethernet adapters at International CES and plans production-ready silicon around the end of the first quarter, senior business development VP Andy Melder told TWICE. In the United States, the first Home Plug AV consumer products, powerline-to-Ethernet adapters, will be available to retailers sometime in the second quarter. They’ll initially be used for broadband Internet access, PC sharing and Ethernet-equipped digital media adapters (DMAs) that stream audio and video from Ethernet-connected PCs and Ethernet-equipped A/V servers. HomePlug AV-embedded DMAs will likely be available by the Christmas selling season. He called 2007 the “breakout year,” when he expects TVs, video displays and set-top boxes to ship with embedded HomePlug AV technology.

In the future, Melder foresees HomePlug AV technology embedded in DVRs and TV sets along with Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) interoperability technology to automatically connect and talk to one another.

Silicon-fabrication delays prevented Intellon from providing chips for demonstrations by other companies here, Melder said.

The HomePlug AV standard, developed from the ground up by the HomePlug Powerline Alliance to handle audio and video, delivers 200Mbps data rates at the physical layer and an average throughput of 70-100Mbps over powerline and 120Mbps over coaxial cable, he said.

In contrast, Intellon’s proprietary Turbo extension of HomePlug 1.0 delivers 85Mbps at the physical layer and average 20-25Mbps throughput, enough for one HD video stream of 19-20Mbps or for multiple standard-definition video streams. Turbo is interoperable with 1.0 adapters. HomePlug AV adapters, on the other hand, don’t interoperate with HomePlug 1.0 adapters but will coexist with them on the same powerline network without creating interference or reducing network speed, he said.

HomePlug AV adapters will initially retail for more than the price of 1.0 and Turbo adapters. Adapters with 1.0 technology retail for as little as $79/pair after rebates, Melder said. Recently introduced Turbo adapters from such companies as Netgear and Actiontec range in suggested retail price from $59 to $99 each, company web sites show.

HomePlug AV is better suited for video than HomePlug 1.0, Melder said, not only because of its greater bandwidth but because of “heavy forward error correction,” prioritized bandwidth guarantees for A/V streams, the use of time division multiplex access (TDMA) technology for A/V streaming, and adaptive band-hopping technology that, within microseconds, senses noise from refrigerator compressors or hair dryers and shifts the A/V stream to a different frequency band.

Telephone companies are looking to HomePlug AV to distribute Internet Protocol TV throughout the house, Melder noted. Telcos are fearful of using Wi-Fi in the home, he said, because pure wireless doesn’t reach all portions of a home, performance often drops “for unknown reasons,” and it’s vulnerable to interference from other wireless products in the unlicensed spectrum. For computer users, Wi-Fi is also problematic because software that needs to be loaded onto PCs “is not easy to install, especially if you have multiple PCs,” he said. HomePlug, in contrast, requires no software installation.

HomePlug technology makes for a good backbone to extend Wi-Fi range, he noted.