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3Com invests in the home

With 3Com's investment in Epigram, the market for technology to connect computers using existing phone infrastructure gets a boost.

    With 3Com's equity investment in Epigram, the market for technology to connect multiple computers using the existing phone infrastructure within the home may have received another boost.

    Though nascent, an emerging market to provide bandwidth speeds typically used to connect PCs within corporations is gaining steam for the home, spurred on by a sprinkling of start-ups and a well-backed standards effort.

    Various analyst firms predict that networks within the home will by a multi-billion dollar opportunity by 2002.

    According to market researcher Dataquest, about 18 million homes in the United States contain more than one PC--a market primed for connection-oriented technology using phone lines already in place, say Epigram executives.

    Epigram will develop a series of products running at 10 megabits-per-second (Mbps) speeds, the same performance found in Ethernet technology, that will be used as part of a new product line being developed by 3Com for the home market.

    The technology, to be demonstrated at next week's Comdex computer industry trade show,is scheduled to roll out in the first quarter of next year.

    Terms of 3Com's minority stake were not disclosed. 3Com's product line for home networks will be called HomeConnect.

    Another industry giant, Microsoft, has an equity stake in another start-up, Tut Systems. A spokesperson for that company said the 3Com deal with Epigram validates the market opportunity for home networking technology.