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Powerline, Coax Tech Vie For Cable-Industry Support

Home-network technologies vied to tie the knot with the cable industry here at the 54th annual National Cable Television Association (NCTA) convention, where advocates of powerline and coaxial network technologies advanced their agendas.

The Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) said it completed the second round of field testing of its coax-based home-network standard, which consistently delivered 100Mbps of usable throughput in real-world conditions to 95 percent of the coax jacks in test homes, the alliance stated.

Meantime, chipmaker Intellon announced that Comcast Cable became the first broadband provider to deploy HomePlug Ethernet adapters for broadband data networking.

Ocala, Fla.-based Intellon said its chips are used in the Comcast-offered adapters, which use a home’s existing powerlines to turn any power outlet into an Ethernet port. The technology offers Quality of Service (QOS), encryption security, and bandwidth speeds up to 14Mbps. Comcast charges $50 to $60 per pair.

“Our 2004 trial confirmed that HomePlug adapters are reliable and simple to install, providing an excellent alternative in older homes, for example, where broadband installations can be more challenging,” said Mitch Bowling, Comcast VP for operations and technical support. “HomePlug adapters support our vision by enabling our customers to easily add additional computers and broadband devices wherever they want throughout their home.” Intellon developed and patented the baseline technology for HomePlug 1.0 and is a contributor to the baseline technology for the new 200Mbps HomePlug A/V powerline standard.

For its part, MoCA said it will now focus on finalizing the specification and certification process. Both should be completed by the end of the second quarter, a spokesman said. The first MoCA-equipped products should follow in the third quarter and be available in the third or fourth quarters through cable operators, phone companies and satellite-TV providers. The first devices will be set-top boxes, DVRs and gateways, the company said.

MoCA called its standard “the only field-proven [standard] … capable of transporting multiple HDTV streams.” MoCA taps “the vast amount of unused bandwidth available on coaxial cables” to “deliver multiple simultaneous streams of HD- and DVD-quality digital entertainment and high-speed data to consumers without glitches or freezes,” the group contended.

The IP-based standard will enable PC and A/V networks to coexist on the same coax-cable infrastructure in a home. The standard’s bandwidth will enable multiple PCs to share a broadband cable-modem connection while multiple streams of HDTV are distributed throughout the house. MoCA can also be used to distribute premium cable channels, pay-per-view channels and DVR content over coax to TVs connected to small clients.

In addition, MoCA networks could double as the wired backbone for a wireless UWB (ultrawideband) network, and they could distribute IP-based TV programming streamed from the Internet.

The latest trials were conducted in 15 cities by the association, whose founders include Comcast, EchoStar, Entropic Communications, Motorola, Cisco/Linksys, Panasonic, RadioShack and Toshiba. The founding members performed multiple tests in more than 200 homes and multiple dwelling unit buildings to validate that the technology will meet the group’s Market Requirements Document.