Here Comes Multiroom DVR -- Over Power Lines?


Big cable, telco and satellite companies, including Comcast, Cox, DirecTV and Verizon, have thrown in with Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) home networking technology. They’re using MoCA for multiroom DVR (see MoCA 2.0 OK’d For Home Networking Over Coax).

But chip supplier Sigma Designs, for one, suggests MoCA is about to get a major challenge from solutions based on, an ITU standard that supports networking over power lines, phone lines and coax.

The advantage really comes into play over power line, according to Sigma Designs VP of corporate marketing Michael Weissman. That’s because there’s no truck roll — the equipment can be self-installed by the subscriber.

Both HomePNA, a technology that works over coax or phone lines, and MoCA require professional installation. (AT&T U-verse uses HomePNA.) By contrast, a DVR with over power line should just work when you plug it in (with more than 99% of outlets, according to Weissman), sending video over the electrical wiring in your home to other set-tops.

Now the Achilles’ heel for power-line networking has long been low throughput. Power lines are extremely noisy.

Sigma Designs claims it has skinned this cat, with its ClearPath Extreme technology, which provides MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) features over power line communications chipsets using all three wires in a power outlet: the phase, the neutral and the ground. ClearPath, the company says, is fully compliant.

At its investor day in New York this week, Sigma Designs demo’d over power line running at 384 Mbps. “That’s more than anybody is asking for,” Weissman said. A single-chip MoCA 2.0 implementation, he noted, provides 400 Mbps net throughput.

Weissman conceded that chips will be more expensive than MoCA silicon, on the order of approximately 50 cents more on a $10 chip. “But that’s the wrong question to be asking,” he said. “What you should be looking at is how much you’ll save in truck rolls.”

Sigma Designs’ CG5110 40-nanometer system-on-chip will be sampling to equipment manufacturers in Q1, with field trials slated for Q2 and late 2011 deployments. Two other players in silicon are Lantiq and Marvell Technology.


Programming Note: Sign up for Multichannel News‘ free webcast, “Power to the People: Using Self-Service Tools to Put Subscribers in Control,” on Thursday, March 24, at 2 PM ET. With Parks Associates’ Kurt Scherf and Motorola Mobility’s Richard Baker.