HomePlug could spark powerline market

HomePlug, according to a new study, could be the spark needed to get high-speed home powerline networking products and services accepted by consumers.

HomePlug, according to a new study, could be the spark needed to get high-speed home powerline networking products and services accepted by consumers.

Analysts from Cahners In-Stat (www.instat.com) say HomePlug interop erable products that will allow PCs, peripherals and other information appliances to connect via every home power outlet could help propel the market from under $18 million in 2001 to nearly $190 million this year.

"There has not been a lot of attention to the home networking industry, so a lot of people have hopes for this," says Mike Wolf, director of networking for Cahners In-Stat/MDR in Scottsdale, AZ. "The implication is that if this takes off and becomes widely accepted, it would be a viable alternative to new cabling."

HomePlug (www.homeplug.com) products, which could offer raw data rates of 14 Mbits/sec, will be shipped this quarter from vendors such as SONICblue, Inc. (www.sonicblue.com) and NETGEAR (www.netgear.com). If accepted by consumers, HomePlug could help the powerline networking idea overcome past hurdles.

Powerline hasn't been widely accepted as a standard for high-speed networking, and Wolf says HomePlug will now represent its first true test of consumer viability. "Some vendors support it, but not a lot are willing to invest in new technology because of the economy downturn," says Wolf. "A lot are bitter with what happened to the HomePhoneline networking market."

Wolf refers to the HomePhoneline Networking Alliance (www.homepna.org) efforts to help ensure adoption of a single, unified phoneline networking industry standard. But consumers had a difficult time grasping the concept of using interoperable home networking solutions that relied on phonelines.

"[Phoneline networking] didn't take off," says Wolf. "People are applying the lessons they got from that."

But Wolf says HomePlug has advantages over home phoneline networking, including a larger potential market and a higher ratio of power outlets per home compared to phone jacks.

"People have a lot of power outlets in their home, three to four in each room," says Wolf. "It makes it easy when you compare it to cable installation."

Wolf also says HomePlug still has to overcome what he calls the "rival standard" being developed by the Con sumer Electronics Association (www.ce.org). But Matthew Swanston, staff director of communications for the association, says its push for R7.3 will not be a competitive standard.

"We undertook not to create a new standard, but to provide a place for people to submit technologies to be tested against each other," says Swanston.

Wolf also says the early release of HomePlug bridging and routing products that are concurrent with NIC products will help the powerline effort. By the end of 2006, Cahners In-Stat believes the overall powerline home networking equipment market will reach $706 million.

-Brian Milligan

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