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newRevised 12/18/02

Links and Resources: Home Networking

Many different types of broadband home networking are now available. Although each addresses some of the user needs and application performance requirements, none completely satisfies the needs for all applications; new technologies are being developed which better address the needs. While some hope that a single technology would satisfy all user needs, we believe it is more likely that a combination of technologies will be used in many homes.

Broadband home networks can operate over various physical media. These can be organized into three broad groups: structured cabling, existing wiring and wireless.

  • Structured cabling requires installing new cabling in the walls. Both the cabling (typically unshielded twisted pair [UTP] or fiber) and its installation are defined by standards.
  • Existing wiring makes use of electrical, telephone or coax wiring already installed in the walls.
  • Wireless avoids the use of wires by transmitting through the air.


We have written many articles and presentations on the evolution of home networking.

In addition to the links below, Broadband in the Home: Home Networking in our Topical Guide provides references to related conference presentations and articles in our reports.

Structured Cabling

Standards and Technology

Standards Overview provides an index to U.S., European and global structured cabling standards.

Industry Associations

Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) is "a not-for-profit industry association that promotes advanced technologies for the automation of homes and buildings in North America."

CEBus Industry Council home page, has the CEBus recommendations for "Home Plug and Play".

Other Resources

newStructured Cabling For Broadband Home Distribution summarizes our views of the "whys and hows" of home networking based on structured wiring.

Low Voltage Home Pre-Wire Guide is a comprehensive guide for the do-it-yourselfer.

Network Cabling has additional links for structured cabling.

Wireless Networking

A wireless local area network (WLAN) is designed to cover all or most of a home, while a wireless personal area network (WPAN) has a 10 meter range and is designed for "the space about a person". There are many competing approaches for home LANs and PANs, including IEEE 802.11, HomeRF, Bluetooth and ultra wideband (UWB). Each has one or more standards associations and/or industry consortia promoting products based on its preferred approach. Some companies are members of more than one consortium.

Although there have been several competing approaches for home wireless networking, IEEE 802.11b (marketed as "Wi-Fi") has won for the near-term. 802.11b operates in the 2.4 GHz spectrum at data rates up to 11 Mbps - although the actual speed is usually no more than half that. Millions of Wi-Fi access points and LAN cards have shipped over the past year.

The next challenge for home wireless networking is to support digital video transmission. Each channel of "standard-definition" digital video requires about 4 Mbps and "high definition" requires about 30 Mbps. Three standards are competing to provide "whole home" networking including digital video:

  • IEEE 802.11g operates in the 2.4 GHz spectrum at higher speeds, and is backwards compatible with .11b. The standard is expected to be approved in early 2003, although "pre-standards" products are already available.
  • IEEE 802.11a (now also marketed as "Wi-Fi") is an approved standard operating in the 5 GHz spectrum at speeds up to 54 Mbps (some higher). Since it operates in different spectrum, 11a is not compatible with 11b - but many vendors are working on "dual mode" 11a/11b or 11a/11g solutions. Products are available today.
  • HiperLAN2 is a European standard operating in the 5 GHz spectrum at speeds up to 54 Mbps. It is similar to 802.11a but designed for compatibility with 3G WLAN systems.

Standards and Technology

IEEE 802.11 is the working group developing wireless local area networking (WLAN) standards. All working documents are available for download from this site.

To download any of the IEEE 802 standards including 802.11, see the Get IEEE 802 home page.

IEEE P802.15 Working Group for Wireless Personal Area Networks (WPANs) documents the standards developed and being considered for PANs. Bluetooth is a standard (802.15.1) and work is ongoing for high-rate and low-rate WPAN standards.

Industry Associations

The Wi-Fi Alliance (formerly The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance - WECA) is a consortium formed to certify interoperability and to promote products based on the IEEE 802.11 standards using the "Wi-Fi" logo.

The Wireless LAN Association (WLANA) is the "consortium of wireless LAN vendors established to help educate the market place about wireless LANs and their uses." It includes a useful Guide to Wireless Local Area Technology Organizations.

The HiperLAN2 Global Forum has more information on HiperLAN2.

The HomeRF Working Group is a consortium of wireless LAN vendors promoting products based on HomeRF.

The Bluetooth SIG represents the consortium of vendors and interested parties promoting products based on Bluetooth.

The WiMedia Alliance is an industry association formed "to promote personal-area range wireless connectivity and interoperability among multimedia devices in a networked environment." These devices are based on UWB and are said to form the basis for the 802.15 high-rate standards.

The ZigBee Alliance has been formed to "create and develop a new, very low cost, very low power, two-way wireless communications standard." These devices are said to form the basis for the 802.15 low-rate standards.

Other Resources

We have written several articles about wireless networking in our report.

A paper by Atheros Measured Performance of 5-GHz 802.11a Wireless LAN Systems has an analysis of 802.11a performance.

Clarity & Understanding: The High-speed WLAN standards debate is a tutorial on 11a vs. 11g.

802.11a: A Very-High-Speed, Highly Scalable Wireless LAN Standard is a Proxim white paper on 802.11a.

Existing Wiring: Power Line

We recently completed an extensive evaluation of HomePlug, a promising new technology for home networking over existing electrical wiring. We reported on this work in our report and in a new section of this website.

Industry Associations

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance (HomePlug) is a consortium formed "to provide a forum for the creation of open specifications for high speed home powerline networking products and services."

Other Resources

The Powerline Communication Network Technology eLibrary covers the new powerline technologies, including their use for broadband access and home networking around the world.

AC Fundamentals Information on US power distribution.

USA/Canada wiring regulations The National Electrical Code specifies US wiring and safety practices.

Existing Wiring: Phone Line

Industry Associations

The Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) is the consortium formed "to ensure adoption of a single, unified phoneline networking standard and rapidly bring to market a range of interoperable home networking solutions." It recently announced a proposal for HomePNA 3.0 to "reach an unprecedented throughput rate of 128 Mbps and to enable Quality of Service (QoS) for reliable content delivery to the end-user."