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Efficient Network Enters Powerline Networking

DSL modem maker Efficient Networks will start shipping two powerline home networking products this month and follow up with a third in November.

The company, a subsidiary of Siemens Corp., will market three SKUs under the SpeedStream brand, the 2501 USB and 2502 Ethernet-based adapters and the 2521 802.11b wireless access point that can meld together a powerline and wireless network. The adapters will be sold individually with a $99 suggested retail price. A price has not been set for the 2521. Efficient’s products are all based on the HomePlug powerline networking specification.

The products incorporate a new industrial design that eliminates the need for a stand-alone box to house the circuitry. Instead everything is contained in the wall plug, which is about the size of a standard AC adapter, said David Schmertz, Efficient’s business development VP. The redesign also helped reduce costs, enabling it to compete with other formats.

“We think with this pricing we can compete with wireless networking to be a home’s primary network,” he said.

The network has a data transfer rate of 6MBps, but the industry could see this increased by a factor of 10 next year as new chipsets become available. D’Andre Ladson, Efficient’s director of technical marketing, said recent improvements in the HomePlug specification ensure the data stream is never fully interrupted by the use of other high-powered electrical devices, such as hair dryers. The data is actually sent through the network twice, that way, if any data packets are lost or corrupted a clean version will get through. This halves the data rate, he said, but called it a fair tradeoff.

Efficient Networks’ product roadmap includes what it calls a triple technology router, shipping in the first quarter of 2003. It will work with wireless, powerline and Ethernet networks or any combination of the three formats. Pricing has not been set for this device.