By Rich Nesin, General Manager and Resident Philosopher
Did you hear the news? The Broadband and HomeGrid Forums have announced the first open G.hn chipset interoperability plugfest. This may come as a surprise to you, but apparently there are several companies ready to test their G.hn chipsets. (At least it’s a surprise to the people that aren’t employed by one of the 200 something members of the Broadband Forum and didn’t see the technical contributions leading up to the event). Regardless, it’s uncommon to see a new standard launched with multiple certified vendors and an operating certification process.The G.hn developers are delivering on their promise of a multi-vendor multi-media standard.
If you are wondering what the Broadband Forum has to do with home networking, read on. It seems that there are two ways for an industry standard.to be developed. In this context a “standard” is a technical document developed by an accredited SDS (Standards Development Organization) such as the IEEE or ITU.
The first way is for companies or individuals to come together in one of the SDSs and develop the technology. This is the way that the IEEE 802/11 standard (WiFi) was born. WiFi, the industry SIG (Special Interest Group) which promotes and certifies the features and performance of WiFi products, came after the 802.11 standard.
The second way is for companies to come together in a SIG and develop the technology. HomePNA, HDPLC, and HomePlug are examples of this approach. The SIG members may decide to take the technology to an SDS and standardize it giving it the official “standards” stamp. HomePNA standardized two generations of technology under the ITU as Recommendations G.9951 through G,.9954). The HomePlug and HDPLC guys standardized under IEEE P1901. (Historical note: MOCA, the “other” home-networking- over-coax technology, has never been standardized. Could it be that, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, they don’t want to belong to any club that would accept them as a member?)
What’s the difference which comes first? Well look no further than my blog post “Why It's Important for HomePNA To Be Both A Standard and a SIG”. Start with ownership of the defining technical document. In a SIG it is owned by a few SIG members - often called the SIG Promoters. In an SDO it is owned by the SDO. There are other important differences but you get the idea.
Which brings us back (at last) to G.hn, The Broadband Forum, and The HomeGrid Forum. The G.hn standard arose the “first” way. A group of civic minded ITU members got together and developed a standard. After getting the standards work rolling, a number of those high-minded companies went off and formed the HomeGrid Forum, a SIG, to promote the ITU's G.hn technology. The G.hn movers and shakers looked up from their work and noticed that the Broadband Forum, facilitated by the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL), had been successfully running a DSL modem certification programfor years. Modems – or more accurately residential gateways which incorporate broadband modems – often (always?) feature home networking so it made sense to ask the Broadband Forum to help out with the certification. And the rest, so they say, is or will soon be history.