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Siemens pulls plug on Net over power cables technology

Cites regulatory and 'political' problems

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Siemens has said it is pulling the plug on development of a technology that can allow the transmission of Internet traffic of power cables.

The giant German electronics and engineering group said it saw a greater potential market in developing ADSL products instead, mainly because of regulatory delays surrounding powerline technology.

"Because of regulatory delays, there is no chance of an immediate mass market application for this technology," a Siemens spokesman told Reuters. He added that Siemens was keeping its options open about re-entering the market at some future date but, for now, saw growth of the market for powerline technology as "uncertain".

Siemen's move parallels a decision more than a year ago by development partners Nortel and utility Norweb to drop development of digital power line (DPL) technology in the UK. That decision was made against a backdrop of fears that the technology could drown out other radio traffic and interfere with civil aviation and emergency service transmissions.

The technology encountered particularly fierce opposition for radio hams. The Low Power Radio Association (LPRA) described powerline technology, which was been tested in the north of England in 1998, as causing "alarming levels of interference".

"Eavesdropping aliens and the industrial archaeologists of the future may well wonder why we built a phased array across the north of England to beam credit card numbers and digital images of naked ladies into the atmosphere," Nick Long of the LPRA memorably said at the time.

Thus far the technology, which allows symmetrical connection of between 1Mbps to 3Mbps between a base station and homes, has been far more favourably received in Germany. A number of German utilities plan to launch small-scale commercial broadband services this Summer, when laws regulating the use of the technology enter the country's statute books.

Among these German utility EnBW, which planned to roll out Siemens kit in order to provide Internet access via the main to 7,500 houses in the south west German town of Ellwangen. EnBW, which is due to update press on its progress with the technology during the CeBIT computer fair which begins in Hanover tomorrow, will now use kit supplied by Swiss group Ascom. ®

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