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Power line networking firm suffers brownout

Skeleton Inari

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One of the three companies participating in developing a standard for sending high speed Internet traffic over a home's existing AC wiring is operating on a skeleton staff as it struggles to find addition sources of funding.

Inari, which was formed in January 1997 when Novell spun-off the power line technology business, has scaled back operations. But it has not closed, as rumours on the Internet suggested.

Alan Walbeck, of Inari, told us: "During the re-structuring there is a skeleton crew here at Inari to provide support. The company continues to operate."

"Inari still has every intention and reason to continue supporting the CEA [Consumer Electronics Association] initiative and providing support for its silicon solutions."

The company has submitted two technologies for testing as the basis of a power line networking standard to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Other participants include Itran Communications of Israel and nSine of Reading, England. CEA is the only Standards Developing Organisation authorised by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to write US standards for home networking.

High-speed Internet plug in

Inari is involved is developing technology to use domestic mains wiring for in-home networking.

The related technology of using the national grid for high-sped Internet access also has also up against financial and technical obstacles.

Digital power line technology offers the potential to deliver high-speed Internet access to the home, typically at up to 2Mbps, over mains cables.

Last year, Siemens announced that it was pulling the plug on development of its version of digital power line technology. The company said it saw a greater potential market in developing ADSL products instead, mainly because of regulatory delays surrounding power line technology.

Siemens' move parallels a decision made in 1999 by development partners Nortel Networks and United Utilities to stop marketing digital power line 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 from the unlikely alliance of radio hams and government spooks. The Low Power Radio Association (LPRA) described power line technology, which went through tests in Manchester England during 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.

So far, the technology (trial versions of which have been demonstrated working at speeds of speeds up to 45Mbps), has been far more favourably received elsewhere on the continent. Utilities such as Endesa in Spain, which aims to service 2,500 users, and EnBW in Germany have launch digital power line packages into the residential market.

The exit of Nortel and Siemens means that lesser known companies such as Spanish chipset firm DS2, Swiss firm Ascom, Intellon and RWE are spearheading the development of the technology. ®

Related stories

Net over power lines concept is back
Siemens pulls plug on Net over power cables technology
Nortel/Norweb pulls plug on Internet over electricity scheme

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