Technology Breakthrough Could Open New Wave of Internet Growth

Technology Breakthrough Could Open New Wave of Internet Growth

Recent trials on a new technology, allowing data to be transferred over electricity power lines into the home, have been successfully completed and the technology is now ready to be deployed in volume. This is according to Nortel (Northern Telecom) and Norweb Communications, joint developers of the technology. The breakthrough has the potential to open a new wave of demand for Internet services.

The new technology, which enables electricity companies to convert their power infrastructures into information access networks, was developed by Nortel at its main European research and development laboratories in Harlow, UK, in cooperation with Norweb. It enables data to be transferred at speeds of over one megabit per second–up to 10 times faster than ISDN (integrated services digital network), currently the fastest generally available speed for domestic users.

According to the joint developers, the technology allows electric utilities to provide a service that solves the three major problems facing domestic Internet take-up: access to consumers` homes, data transmission rates and capital costs.

According to a spokesman for two companies, the cost of this technology is considerably less than alternatives. The technology simply turns the low voltage distribution segment of the electricity infrastructure into a LAN. A specialized signaling scheme has been designed to carry data traffic between the substation and the home. Each substation is then linked by fiber-optic circuits using standard communications technologies to a central switch and from there to the rest of the world. A single small box must be installed next to the home`s meter to send and receive data. This box is then linked to a PC through an ordinary coaxial cable.

Due to the nature of the technology it can be rolled out in discrete, targeted phases. Utilities not wishing to operate data services also have the option of charging a right-to-use fee to an operating company for accessing their network infrastructure. Domestic customers require a computer card comparable in cost to a conventional ISDN terminal adapter, but offering 10 times the peak bandwidth.

Nortel and Norweb have been working together on this development for the last three years and it is subject to a number of patents filed by the companies. It will be marketed initially in Europe and Asia Pacific.

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