There are three distinct types of AC powerline networking with different competitive positions, also distinct from DC power and data networks (powered ethernet). See power grid terms for more information on wide area distribution and transmission of electrical power, or compare NB provincial party policies on NB Power or review the NB Power controversy, 2010 in which lack of consideration for powerline networking potential has seriously retarded the debate.
There are five standards that apply to moving power and data over a single cable:
- USB which carries a maximum of 5VDC at 900mA (0.9A) for no more than two meters. This is not a powerline networking standard and is useful only for devices attached directly to computers at very short range. It has a high data rate (nearly 5gbps).
- powered ethernet which carries a maximum of 30W per device at a wide range of DC voltages and amperages (but none exceeding 1A=1000mA per device). This is not a powerline networking standard and works over category 6e, 6 and 6 "ethernet" wiring. It is however capable of up to 300m distances (at some power loss cost) and is used for security cameras, VoIP, wireless access points, alarms and lighting. It has advantages over AC powerline networking where voltages is low, devices always on or nearly always on, and where the cost of running full AC wiring is high.
- IEEE P1901 which replaces the older HomePlug standard. This works over existing household AC wiring. That is, devices plug into AC wall outlets found in every home, and they network with each other over the wiring built into the walls. These networks may be augmented by smart breakers, outlets and utility meters, all of which communicate using IEEE P1901 which is one of the NIST smart grid standards and the basis of the openHAN standard for communication among all AC appliances.
- ITU G.hn is a protocol for moving data seamlessly among all existing home wires (telephone, coaxial cable, AC wiring) that for powerline networking follows IEEE P1901. That is, an ITU G.hn network running over AC wiring in North America will be IEEE P1901 compliant by definition. In North America there is no need to distinguish other than to observe that Internet Protocol (IP) runs over ITU G.hn links which in turn run over an IEEE P1901 physical layer that specifies how to move bits over 14/2.
- Any rural BPL service would communicate packets into the home using only ITU G.hn
- Wide-area powerline networking (as used for rural BPL) running between poles and on the LV and MV lines connecting customers on a power distribution network. This technology competes directly with fibre optic and DSL and cable Internet and Motorola Canopy and WiMAx technologies, none of which provide the power and data on the same lines. This type of networking could be used by ISPs but they are more likely to run fibre to poles and use ITU G.hn to get from the pole into homes. Power grids themselves may use these technologies for internal management but where fibre optic is available and reliable there are some advantages of using these separate wires or a redundant network that can use either fibre or powerline whichever is still working through an outage.
Home grid evolution from 2010 to 2020 will almost certainly include the following:
- Universal deployment of ITU G.hn to network every wired/powered device in the home in a home grid using openHAN
- Rural BPL nearly universally available and an alternative to cablecos and to telcos, providing universal wired broadband to anyone with a powerco connection
- Powercos using ITU G.hn and BPL to read all meters and facilitiate third party home monitoring (the US National Broadband Plan mandates this for all American users)
- Gigabit communication between any and all devices plugged into a common AC power service behind the same transformer.