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@Home delays launch

@Home, the much-touted Internet access service built around high-speed cable modems, is pushing back the launch of its service until the end of the year after encountering technical problems in its current test of only 20 homes.

@Home, the much-touted Internet access service built around high-speed cable modems, is pushing back the launch of its ambitious service until the end of the year after encountering technical problems in its current test of only 20 homes.

The service--a joint venture between Tele-Communications and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers--was originally slated to debut in selected markets next month. It is being created to exploit a new kind of modem that transmits data over cable television lines at speeds hundreds of times faster than the current 28.8-kbps modems found in most homes.

Industry pundits predict that cable modems, popularized by new services like @Home, will lead the way to the sharing of multimedia data like video and audio over the Internet and end users' frustration over slow access to the Net.

But @Home's plan--to build its service from the ground up, including its own network backbone and localized content such as weather and traffic reports--is already hitting unexpected technical and quality problems, according to @Home officials. The delay has been caused by "combinations of everything," said an @Home spokesperson, without elaboration.

In January, @Home began testing its service in 20 homes in Sunnyvale, California. The company still plans to add additional Bay Area cities, but to "manage consumers expectations," the company declined to disclose locations and dates. After that, the service will roll out nationwide in phases over the next few years, according to company officials.

When it launches, @Home will also face stiff competition from established Net access companies, including the three major telecommunications companies, AT&T, MCI, and Sprint.

The company says it's also having demand problems. Currently, Motorola is supplying the @Home cable modems. The company said it is talking with other vendors and cable operators but declined to give details.

Netscape Communications and Macromedia are also partners in the @Home project.