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Comcast among Intellon investors

Sun, 04/04/2004 - 8:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner

Comcast Corp., already a member of the HomePlug Alliance, remained bullish on powerline networking technology, joining a group of investors that infused $23.5 million into Intellon Corp.

Intellon makes chipsets for powerline networking devices and currently enjoys a big market share lead for equipment based on the HomePlug 1.0, a standard that provides speeds of up to 14 Mbps, minus overhead. Belkin, D-Link, Gateway, Linksys, Netgear and Siemens are among vendors that use Intellon silicon. Intellon became further entrenched in the sector last week when it agreed to buy one-time rival Cogency Semiconductor.

With this "A-Series Recap" round, Intellon has raised about $79 million, said Intellon CEO Charlie Harris.

Intellon will use the new funds for general working capital and for the development of its "PowerAV" silicon for HomePlug AV, a standard that will be capable of handling multiple high-definition streams.

Comcast's involvement in the financing round also provides a glimpse into Intellon's cable strategy.

As a first step, Cable operators could use Intellon's technology to ease in-home cable modem service installations. If a cable drop is not already near a customer's primary PC, for instance, the operator could install the modem near the traditional set-top and use existing powerlines instead of installing more coax.

"It let's you leave the modem where the best cable drop is, and convert the Ethernet signal from that location to the PC using powerline [technology]," Harris said.

The capability will also reduce truck rolls and enable more customers to handle their own installations, he said, noting that most MSOs do not allow self-installations if the PC is more than a fixed distance (typically 25 feet) from the set-top.

Further out, Harris expects vendors to support powerline technology in cable modem gateways — devices that contain both cable modem and networking capabilities. Today, there are several cable modem gateways that house Wi-Fi abilities, but wireless technology is limited by attenuation caused by floors and walls.

HomePlug-enabled gateways for cable and DSL should be out by the second half of 2004, Harris said.

With HomePlug support, Harris added, cable customers can light up all of their power outlets with broadband, essentially adding Cat-5 capabilities without having to install Cat-5 wiring.

Thanks to the powers of HomePlug AV, Intellon also hopes to play a role in cable media centers that ship high quality video and audio to multiple devices in the home.

Powerline technology, Harris said, can complement efforts such as MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance), a coax-based networking scheme backed by Comcast, EchoStar Communications, Panasonic, Motorola Inc., RadioShack, Toshiba and Entropic Communications, another chip builder.

"We think home networks of the future will be mixed media networks, and [will use] what best works in the house," Harris said. "This is not about us winning against MoCA or vice versa. We offer the additional flexibility."

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