New HomePlug AV2 spec hopes to win the connected living room war

HomePlug technology -- which uses ordinary electrical outlets to create a home network, sending data through power lines -- has come a long way from its first iteration, where it failed to offer speeds that could compete with wireless networking products. HomePlug AV made a big jump that could at least make the standard competitive with Wi-Fi.

HomePlug technology -- which uses ordinary electrical outlets to create a home network, sending data through power lines -- has come a long way from its first iteration, where it failed to offer speeds that could compete with wireless networking products. HomePlug AV made a big jump that could at least make the standard competitive with Wi-Fi. Now details about the HomePlug AV2 spec are emerging, and it could be a true rival to 802.11n when you're trying to connect HDTVs, Blu-ray players, streaming video boxes, etc. to the Internet.

According to the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, AV2 will make use of MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology, which Wi-Fi equipment has been exploiting for some time to improve performance and range, as well as an additional broadcast spectrum. As a result, the Alliance is promising the new spec will result in HomePlug products with five times the performance of current AV devices, which would put it on par with Gigabit Ethernet speeds (theoretically, of course). The group's press release describes it thusly:

... significant improvements in whole home coverage to guarantee reliable delivery of throughput intensive applications such as multiple streams of 1080p HD video (and emerging 3D and 4K HD) broadband Internet, Internet gaming and security camera video over existing electrical wiring.

Whether AV2 products can deliver on this remains to be seen, since the spec won't even be finalized until the first quarter of 2011. Still, an improved HomePlug standard could make an impact in living rooms that aren't wired for Ethernet and include "network-ready" devices that don't include built-in Wi-Fi. We'll get a peak at an improved HomePlug AV in the fall with the arrival of Netgear's XAVB5001 and XAVB5501 kits, which promise 500Mbps performance. If these devices can deliver, then HomePlug AV2 products may be worth the wait.