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Tut shoots for networking standard

The home networking company will partner with chipmaker Broadcom to provide high-speed networking in the home.

Home networking company Tut Systems will partner with chipmaker Broadcom to provide high-speed networking in the home through standard telephone lines.

Tut and Broadcom today said they have co-developed home networking technology with data transfer speeds at 10 megabits per second (mbps), with plans for 60 mbps in the future.

Today's announcement pits the two companies against chipmaker Epigram--a company with its own plans for 10 mbps technology--for the next standard in home networking.

The deal also represents Tut's first strategic move since the company went public just two weeks ago.

The current Home PhoneLine Networking Alliance standard of 1 mbps is based on Tut's HomeRun technology. While 1 mbps allows consumers to network their PCs and printers through phone lines, 10 mbps is important because it is sufficient bandwidth to handle video downloads, such as MPEG2 video streams for DVD players.

Epigram, which claims its InsideLine technology will be able to reach 100 mbps by year's end, and the Tut/Broadcom duo are the only players so far to announce plans to become the second HomePNA standard. HomePNA chairman Cyrus Namazi said other companies are also expected to submit proposals.

Epigram's chief executive Jeff Thermond said the standards group will receive submissions by April and probably finalize the next-generation standard by August.

Epigram hopes to win the standards fight so it can start shipping its technology to third parties interested in home networking, like Intel. The company plans to release samples to vendors in the second quarter, and will be ready to ship in the third quarter, Thermond said. Tut and Broadcom, however, plans to ship their product by the end of the year.

"If we're chosen, we can ship products right away without delay," said Thermond, who added that 3Com, Cisco, Texas Instruments, and Nortel Networks subsidiary NetGear have already announced support for Epigram.

Executives from both companies say that if they win the standards battle, they will not charge other companies to license their technology. Instead, they'll compete on implementations of the standard, they said.

Broadcom marketing director Aidan O'Rourke said Tut and Broadcom will work with Epigram. The companies do not consider the impending decision on the new standard as a "standards war" on par with Sun Microsystem's battle with Microsoft over Java.

"We do not expect a battle within the standards group," he said.

Analyst John Todd, of CE Unterberg, Towbin, said that need for a Tut and Broadcom alliance shows the quality of Epigram's 10 mbps technology.

"That it takes the combination of Tut and Broadcom to do the same thing, it shows the power of what Epigram has done," he said.

Having companies fighting for the standard shows that home networking is a viable market, said Yankee Group analyst Boyd Peterson.

The HomePNA's 11 founding members will decide the standard. They are Tut, Epigram, 3Com, AMD, AT&T Wireless, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Lucent Technologies and Rockwell Semiconductor.