Inside your walls, a fight for the right to link up your HDTV

Powerline specs threaten to split simplest infrastructure for in-home networking

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Here's a tech-industry fight you never expected to hear about: there's a war brewing over standards to create broadband networks across electrical power lines.

This isn't Power Over Ethernet -- which runs power through Ethernet lines to power small network devices -- mostly regular phones connected to Ethernet VoIP networks.

It's also not SmartGrid -- which is designed to make your electric utility meter smarter so it can send signals back to the utility and help balance regional demand for power.

It's also not Power Line Communications or Broadband over Power Line (BPL), both of which are alternatives to Internet connections over cable or phone lines.

(Here's a rundown of the various powerline networking categories, who uses them and for what.)

This is straight-up local-area-networking through the aging, messy, data-inefficient copper lines that carry electricity around most homes, and it's being driven by the unceasing demand of Americans for better high-def TV and the ability to watch it wherever and whenever they want.

Major updates in two standards for in-home powerline networks will more than double the 200Mbit/sec bandwidth available now to support more than one 1080p HDTV signal (and almost anything else as well) simultaneously.

IEEE's 1901 spec is a favorite in the U.S., backed by the HomePlug Alliance of powerline-modem manufacturers. In Europe the International Telecommunication Union's G.hn spec is popular in Europe but almost invisible here.

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