January 12, 2011, 12:01 PM — 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.
(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.