Networking Card Taps Into Powerlines

Using the mains power circuit for networking homes is nothing new, but a £100 PCI card due out in September could create a new surge of interest.

LANergy, the specialist in LANs over existing power wiring, demonstrated a so-called powerline networking card at Networks and Telecoms on Tuesday that will make the technology price-competitive against Ethernet for homes, small businesses and hotels. The company also demonstrated voice-over-IP over power lines… The company was ostensibly at the show to demonstrate its Appian Pro ‘no new wires’ networking product in public. This box, which sits outside the PC, provides 14mbps Ethernet connectivity over domestic power circuits. It has had a design revamp to make it look more at home in the home (The device is manufactured by the doyen of Dixons, Aiwa), and sells for about £300 apiece. A hotel chain would be able to negotiate much lower prices, said LANergy staff.

But the product that interested show-goers most was under the counter: a tiny PCI card with an RJ-11 socket, which connects, via a small white box, directly to any power socket. Scheduled for delivery as a product sometime in September, this is the box that makes the LANergy people’s eyes light up.

The electronics are about as complex as an Ethernet NIC, and the price point may be comparable (they should be aiming for around £100). Plugging one of these into PCs means that up to 16 people can share a network carried by the power wiring in a building. The device meets the HomePlug standard.

The main competitor will be Wi-Fi, which is still expensive, and which will be slower in practice. In-building DSL has been suggested, but is even more expensive, needs phone wires running between the networking points, and is slower.

The voice demonstration uses a Mitel PBX, and worked well, although the necessity to reboot came up and may well justify continued suspicions about voice over the LAN. LANergy’s idea is that small businesses will use this to route extensions round difficult office space, or hotels may use it to wire their rooms


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