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More firms eye home networking

Rockwell and AMD plan to address demand for domestic networks with new chips for creating the systems without remodeling.

By the end of year, Rockwell Semiconductor and Advanced Micro Devices are planning to address demand for home networking with new chips that will allow users to create domestic computer networks without remodeling.

Rockwell said it will create chipsets enabling users to build LANs (local area networks) on existing phone lines, thereby avoiding the need to install extra wiring. The chipsets will also contain dial-up modem and DSL (digital subscriber line) modem capabilities.

Products using the chipset would allow multiple PCs in a home to access the same printer or scanner. Additionally, information appliances, such as Internet phones and set-top boxes, could be linked together or to a common outside Internet service provider.

AMD said that it too will offer chips for networking over phone lines in products such as network cards, circuit boards, and other consumer electronics devices. Both companies will offer technology that's compatible with standards developed by the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (Home PNA), a trade group formed last week.

Earlier this week, companies such as Intel>, 3Com, and Compaq Computer announced plans to develop communications standards as well as products for in-home networks using existing phone lines.

Many of the same companies in the Home PNA are also working on wireless technologies for linking information appliances. That effort, known as theHome Radio Frequency Working Group, is trying to establish a means for allowing devices to speak to each other using radio signals.

Part of the interest in networking home devices is due to a growing number of dual-PC homes. A study by market research firm Dataquest found that more than 15 million homes in the United States have two or more PCs.

Exciting the public about home networking has proven challenging, though. Aside from a small number of homes that have multiple PCs, there are not enough digital devices that would benefit from being able to share data, analysts have said.