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The December 20, 2004 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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Faster Powerline: An Interview with DS2

Following our recent article on powerline communications The Power of Powerline : HomePlug, Intellon and Corinex, we learned that a new 200 Mbps powerline networking chipset family from DS2 had been announced as a CES Innovations Honoree for 2005. DS2 (Design of Systems on Silicon, S.A.) is a "silicon design house" focused on powerline networking, based in Valencia, Spain. DS2's technology for broadband over powerline (BPL) was described in a guest article Spain Plugs Into Broadband by Antonio Gomez of Tecnocom.

We recently talked on the phone with Jorge Blasco, DS2's CEO, to learn more about the company and the new chip. We were especially interested in the relationship of DS2's new chip with HomePlug AV and HomePlug BPL, and with the recent announcement of an 85 Mbps chip from Intellon.

Jorge said DS2 is a member of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance board of directors, and is participating in field trials with other HomePlug members. But--as we heard from Intellon and reported earlier--Jorge said the market is ready for much higher speed powerline networking products: "We're a pragmatic company, and cannot wait. We have a 200 Mbps part now; how many months will it take HomePlug AV to go from a paper spec to silicon? If it comes, and comes in time, and makes it, we'll do it." .

He said the new chip is designed for home multimedia applications. It operates at a physical rate of 200 Mbps, and has a "net throughput after taxes of more than 100 Mbps. It will reach the most remote plug in a big American house and still have 20 to 25 Mbps after tax."

The chip is specifically designed for video and voice networking. It has low latency (about 10 milliseconds), low jitter (less than 100 milliseconds), a low packet error rate, and includes a priority-based QoS conforming with IEEE 802.1q. And it supports IP multicasting, allowing a set top box to send a single IP video stream simultaneously to multiple TVs.

DS2 for BPL

DS2's chips are the core of many powerline networking systems used for broadband access over power lines (BPL). As we described in HomePlug AV and BPL, the "coexistence" between BPL and PLC for home networking is one of the key issues HomePlug plans to address with its new HomePlug BPL effort. Jorge said "we've already solved the interoperability problem." He said DS2's chips conform with ETSI specification TS 101867 for coexistence (sharing) arrangements between in-house and last-mile systems. "This permits the maximum aggregated data rate for neighbors and for access BPL."

He explained this needs to work adaptively, using "differing frequencies in differing topologies" since countries use different standard wiring schemes. The DS2 chips select appropriate operating frequencies and power levels to provide the highest performance to connected devices, with the lowest interference with neighbors. In Spain, electrical cables run from each flat to the bottom floor ("floor 10 to floor 0"), which helps to isolate the flats from one another. In France and Italy, cables run from each apartment to a distribution point on each floor ("floor 10 to floor 10"), creating higher potential for interference. Because higher frequencies don't travel as far as lower ones, the DS2 chips will select lower operating frequencies in Spain, and higher frequencies in France and Italy.

We asked Jorge which companies have used DS2 chips in BPL products, and he mentioned many leading companies including Sumitomo and Mitsubishi in Asia; Schneider Electric and Ascom in Europe; and Amperion and Ambient in North America.

DS2 and Intellon--the leading makers of chips for powerline networking--both believe that the time has come to create "whole home" networks operating over the existing electrical wiring. Both have decided to bring chips to market in advance of industry standards, expecting that consumer electronics companies will incorporate their chips in consumer products.

Jorge said DS2 will be on the floor at CES, and several companies will be demonstrating products based on DS2 chips. We're looking forward to seeing them there and reporting on them in the next issue.

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