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Beyond Ethernet and Wi-Fi

Mar 31, 20032 mins

A look at unique approaches to the connected home

Most home networks use wired Ethernet, Wi-Fi or a mix of both. HomePNA (phone line) and HomePlug (power line) have been around for some time, with varied success. For a while, Sony and Apple thought 1394 would be the backbone of the home network.

But the fight for the home network backbone is far from over. A handful of relatively unknown companies are building products using alternative home network technologies. Some are doing interesting things using coax cabling, some are tinkering with Ultra-Wideband. Others have completely different ideas that are largely unique to them. One of these is Serconet.

Serconet’s NetHome technology creates an Ethernet backbone over in-home phone wiring. This sounds a bit like HomePNA and is similar in that it tries to create an existing network over home phone wires. But the big difference is that Serconet takes a system-level approach, creating a whole home network by using what it calls smart faceplate technology.

The smart faceplates use actual Ethernet switching silicon and create a powered Ethernet network room to room. NetHome lets you network PCs using standard Ethernet client adapters, while HomePNA and HomePlug (and wireless, for that matter) each requires technology-specific ones. The faceplates are unobtrusive, and have one Ethernet and two RJ-11 (telephone) jacks. And there’s even a wireless access point jack available. This fusion of wireless LAN, along with the distributed network topology, is where Serconet really shines.

NetHome is available today, but requires a professional installer, making the solution cost prohibitive for many consumers. However, Serconet is working with a major set-top manufacturer, and is in talks with several DSL and cable providers, so we might see a service-based offering in time.

Next time, we’ll look at companies building home networks using coaxial cabling.