HomePlug is a dominant powerline communication (PLC) technology throughout the world. The technology accounts for more than 90 percent of PLC market share. The growth momentum is picking up.
Broadcom, one of the leading powerline chipset suppliers, is a major provider of the industry’s 25 to 30 million annual HomePlug chips, and recently announced three new chips. Its customer base consists of dozens of manufacturers, including D-Link, Huawei, LEA Networks, Netgear, TP-Link, Tenda, Xyzel, and ZTE. John S. Gloekler, Marketing Director of PLC Department accepted SMAhome’s interview, and shared its observations and development on HomePlug technology and smart home applications for the emerging market.
There are competing technologies for HomePlug, do you think they are threatening?
We think HomePlug is a competitive technology in terms of PLC technology. It takes time for any technology to become popular and widely accepted with enough consumer education. It took around 10 years for DSL to deliver performance in the home. HomePlug has been selling in retail stores for the past 10 to 15 years. The other competing PLC technology is still young, and not there yet. That’s what we see.
What are major and promising geographic markets for PLC chips?
The largest market for powerline communication (PLC) technology is Europe, followed by the U.S. and parts of Asia. We think Asia, and South and Central America are two promising emerging markets over the next few years.
Though Europe is the largest powerline market, we are seeing the technology, especially HPAV2, expanding to other geographical regions such as Brazil, where products are distributed to South America through retail distribution channels.
In China, the best-selling PLC products in China support HomePlug AV (HPAV). We see millions of HPAV products in China by far. At present, we work with leading China companies, such as Huawei, ZTE and TP-Link.
What are driving forces for the technology?
Lowered cost is a key driver for mass adoption. HomePlug is a cost-effective technology now. The price has come down to half in the last two years.
The demand for larger and faster networking from multimedia applications makes people to look at the PLC solution plus Wi-Fi standard. Wi-Fi coverage is a major problem for home users. If you want 100 percent coverage, HomePlug is a reliable complimentary technology.
Previously, if you want hundreds of megabits –you get just part of the house coverage. There is no single technology being able to deliver hundreds megabits in the home. With the PLC plus Wi-Fi solution, they can get things connected from the gateway to any part of the home without sacrificing transmission speed. Extending Wi-Fi in the home, which we presented three years ago, has been growing rapidly with over 200 percent of annual growth.
The connected home applications like home appliances and video streaming from security cameras also drive the market. One operator we are working with connects nine cameras through PLC technology in any given house. The reliable technology provides plug-and-play and always-connected experiences.
Do you have any new product development?
Broadcom’s BCM60500 HomePlug AV2 powerline device delivers Gigabit-class speeds over home electrical wiring, achieving physical layer rates of up to 1.9 Gigabits per second (Gbps) over a home's existing electrical wiring. The solution, with a PCIe interface for connecting to Wi-Fi chipsets, is applied for set-top box, gateway and TV platforms for in-home Internet coverage and reliability.
A lot of mobile devices and applications adopt Bluetooth technology like wearables, and healthcare that is a growing industry. Seeing the growing business from Bluetooth-enabled application, we would release a PLC to Bluetooth extender. Bluetooth adds mesh networking technology, but it’s not reliable. PLC provides stable infrastructure.
Bluetooth doesn’t get the whole coverage in the home. Our solution is cost effective. We use PLC as the backbone of the gateway, and put Bluetooth in each room. You can use the dongle or adapter to talk to all Bluetooth devices in the room
What do you think about smart home?
The smart home market is very fragmented without unified standard. We’ve focused on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies right now. But through our WICED platform, we can interface to ZigBee and Z-Wave standards.
For smart homes, I believe HAVC, security and Bluetooth extender in the home are three major applications. From a long-term perspective, I think home and health care are will be two killer applications to drive the market for increases in aging population and concerns on personal safety like tracking kids.