The IEEE has begun a project to develop a standard for high speed (>100 Mbps at the physical layer) communication devices via alternating current electric power lines – otherwise known as Broadband over Powerline (BPL) devices. The standard will use transmission frequencies below 100 MHz, and will be usable by all classes of BPL devices, including those used for the first mile/last mile connection to broadband services (<1500m to the premises) and BPL devices used in buildings for LANs and other data distribution (<100m between devices).

The standard, IEEE P1901 "Standard for Broadband over Power Line Networks: Medium Access Control and Physical Layer Specifications", will be an essential step in helping manufacturers develop the devices to be used in commercialising this approach. It is being developed within the IEEE-SA Corporate Program, and will make it easier for high-speed communication equipment to be used with AC power lines. It is targeted for completion in early 2007.

BPL communication involves an open media able to be shared by many devices. The standard will focus on the balanced and efficient use of the powerline communications channel by all classes of BPL devices, defining detailed mechanisms for co-existence and interoperability between them, and ensuring that desired bandwidth and quality of service can be delivered.

The standard will also address the necessary security questions to ensure privacy of communications between users, thus allowing the use of BPL for security sensitive services. The project will begin with an architecture investigation, and this will form the basis for detailed scope of task groups that will work within P1901 to develop the components of the final standard.

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