Home Networks Increase in Europe and U.S.

Twenty-one percent of homes in the U.S. will be networked with wireless and wired technology by the year 2005, according to a new study released yesterday.

Multiple home PCs and mobile phones will drive the trend, according to Strategy Analytics, a U.K.-based telecom and new media analysis firm.

By 2005, 19 percent of U.S. households will have wireless networks, connecting 77 million devices, the report said, while roughly 11 percent of U.S. homes will have wired networks. Some homes will have both, making the total number of networked homes 21 percent, said David Mercer, study's author.

In Europe, 15 percent of houses will have wireless networks by that time, connecting 88 million devices. Only 4 percent of European households will be networked with wired technology, according to the report. Again, some home will have both networking technology so that the total number of European networked homes will be 16 percent, Mercer said.

Wired networks based on HomePNA will be used to distribute content within the home, said the report. HomePNA, sponsored by the Home Phoneline Networking Association, is the standard being developed to make use of existing copper telephone lines to link appliances in the home.

Another type of wired networking technology being developed is powerline technology, which uses the home electricity wiring as a data channel, said Mercer. But HomePNA, an extension of Ethernet technology, has market momentum behind it, said Mercer. "There's a problem with powerline (network technology), because its data rate is quite slow at around 350K bits per second (bps)," said Mercer. HomePNA is likely to reach up to 10M bps, said Mercer.

The Bluetooth standard is one of the wireless standards that homes will use, the study noted. Bluetooth will let mobile phones, handheld devices and PCs transmit voice and data without wires at up to 1M bps within a radius of 30 feet. More than 800 companies around the world are working to develop the standard and products for the standard.

"We may see some Bluetooth products by the end of the year, or certainly within 12 months," Mercer said.

Eventually, wireless networking will become more widespread than wired networking, according to the report. The gradual adoption of wireless networking will be driven by increased usage of mobile devices -- such as phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) -- that likely to be sold with Bluetooth capability, said the report. When those products are widespread, the price of the technology will become low enough that manufacturers of other appliances, such as set-top boxes, will also adopt it.

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