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Broadband users tap into home networking

As high-speed Net connections become increasingly widespread, more consumers are getting hooked on home networking products.

As high-speed Net connections become increasingly widespread, more consumers are getting hooked on home networking products.

According to a report from research firm In-Stat/MDR, more people are purchasing home networking equipment and are anticipating upcoming network-enabled products because of an increase in broadband connections in homes. Broadband use shot up in 2002 as consumers, wooed by lower pricing for the service, shifted from slower dial-up connections to always-on access.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based research firm found that owners of home networking products increased to account for 10 percent of U.S. households in 2002, from 8 percent in 2001.

"Broadband adoption is spurring home network ownership as consumers look for ways to share their Internet connection between multiple PCs," Jaclynn Bumback, an In-Stat/MDR analyst said in a statement.

In-Stat/MDR surveyed 961 U.S. households and found that people in all demographics had installed home networks. Ethernet networks were the most broadly used, but about 31 percent of people surveyed were planning to set up wireless networks, and 27 percent were planning to set up wireless networks within one to two years.

The falling cost of Wi-Fi wireless networking equipment is proving to be a selling point. Average selling prices for 802.11b-based access points and networking cards were down in 2002 from $136 to $87 while volumes were up nearly threefold in the retail market, according to NPDTechworld.

About 6 percent of people surveyed were planning to set up power line networks.

Consumers are looking to home networking as a means of sharing access to the Internet, files, printers, digital music and gaming. Home control and remote video monitoring are also on the radar of consumers.

Consumer-electronics makers are looking to take advantage of the increased interest in home networking, and specifically wireless products, by launching Wi-Fi enabled products. Sony plans to introduce in the spring what is essentially a networking hub, called RoomLink, for swapping data between disparate devices.

Notebook makers, such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Toshiba and NEC, also are incorporating Wi-Fi capabilities into their PCs, and DVD players are expected to include Wi-Fi features in the near future.