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Lucent leans on home networking

The company announces a new chip family it hopes will make home networks more like their corporate siblings.

Lucent Technologies today announced a new chip family it hopes will make home networks more like their corporate siblings, allowing home users to share printers, files, and Internet access.

The Home Wire chips will allow home networks to tie into the Internet with either 56-kpbs modems based on the V.90 standard or higher speed digital subscriber line (DSL) connections.

And using Home Run technology Lucent licensed from Tut Systems, home users will be able to set up a home network over ordinary copper phone wiring inside the house. No new wires or connections are required.

Customer surveys have shown Lucent that sharing Internet connections and printers are two critical needs for home computer users, according to Tony Grewe, manager of strategy and business development at Lucent. The Home Wire communications chips will help take care of those needs, he said.

"You can connect to every other PC on the planet with the Internet, but not with the PC across the room in your home," Grewe said. The phone line is the "quick-strike capability" that's affordable and simple enough to spur consumers to install home networks, he said.

Grewe said that Lucent initially expects the Home Wire chips to be used in V.90 modems, which can communicate at speeds up to 56 kbps. Later, Lucent expects the technology to be used in combination V.90/DSL modems as well.

DSL is a high-speed network connection standard. Like ordinary modems, DSL uses existing copper phone lines but offers much higher data transfer rates, typically about 18 times the speed of today's 56-kbps dial-up modems.

The Home Wire network technology will add an estimated $100 to a PC's cost, Grewe said. Lucent is expecting to sell the products both through original equipment manufacturer and retail channels.

In the first quarter of 1999, Lucent technology will allow home networks capable of communicating at speeds of 1 mbps, but that should increase to 10 mbps in the second quarter of 1999.

Lucent sees home networks as a booming business. In fact, Grewe said, the number of homes with two more computers is increasing at 35 percent per year, and a Inteco Corporation says that the number of home computers will increase 60 percent by 2003, and that most of that growth taking place in homes that already have at least one computer.