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New LAN technology headed for home

October 14, 1998
Web posted at: 7:46 PM PT

by Tim Greene


(IDG) -- The hardware needed to turn home telephone wiring into cabling for remote office LANs should be available by year-end.

Rockwell Semiconductor and Lucent Technologies separately have developed chips designed to power modems that will support such home phone networking.

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With home phone network gear, PCs and printers could be connected via already installed telephone wiring to link phone jacks within homes. Once networked, the devices could share a printer, for example, as well as a wide-area dial-up connection for Internet or corporate network access.

Internal copper phone cabling is designed to handle voice, and the new home phone network technology allows the wiring to support data as well.

Current home network technology supports 1M bit/sec of data above the 3,000-Hz range used by voice, though vendors working together within the Home Phone Networking Alliance hope to boost the LAN bandwidth to 10M bit/sec by mid-1999.

Users of home phone network gear will also be able to work high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) and cable modems into the mix. Currently, home phone network hardware supports only dial-up links to the WAN. But the new Rockwell and Lucent chips will enable home phone network hardware to support DSL and cable WAN links as well.

DSL already allows a high-speed data path and a regular voice connection simultaneously over a regular phone line. Home phone line technology combined with DSL could enable users to simultaneously print out an Internet page while talking on the phone and accessing data stored on another PC.

The home phone network technology would also make it convenient for office workers to bring home laptops or docking stations to access printers, as well as to call the corporate office or the Internet, says Lisa Pelgrim, an analyst with Dataquest in San Jose, Calif.

Home networking requires two types of network cards. One connects local devices to each other over the phone wiring. The other performs the same function, but also includes a modem for WAN access.

The Home Phone Networking Alliance has set price goals at $100 for the PC-to-PC card and $20 for the gateway card. PCs on home phone networks must run Windows 95, 98 or NT, or some other software that supports file sharing.

PC manufacturers have expressed interest in installing home phone network cards in new systems. 3Com, AT&T, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Tut Systems are among the companies that have expressed an interest in the technology.

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