3Com Readying Phone-Based Networking System

BOSTON(06/13/2000) - 3Com Corp. next week plans to launch a networking system that uses existing copper-wire telephone lines to provide value-added broadband Ethernet services to hotels, multitenant offices and apartment and condominium complexes.

The new Visitor Community Network (VCN) system will carry voice, video and data packets over existing copper wires at speeds of 10M bits/sec. for up to 4,000 feet without any infrastructure upgrades and without adding software to the user's desktop, according to 3Com officials.

Analysts said the 3Com VCN is a direct challenge to anticipated products from Murray Hill, New Jersey-based Lucent Technologies Inc. and other vendors that are expected to offer similar network connections over fiber-optic lines, though not necessarily involving the exact same applications that 3Com is targeting.

A potential difference, though, is that 3Com's system uses existing phone lines. Amir Eldad, vice president and general manager of 3Com's new visitor-based networking division in Marlboro, Mass., said in an interview that the VCN is based on a networking technology called voice over digital subscriber line that allows multidwelling and multioffice units to create virtual networks.

The networks would be flexible enough to maintain secure individual connections for different users because all information would be sent separately, Eldad said. And users would be able to access the VCN on a wireless connection from anywhere in a building where the system is installed, he added.

The technology also allows users to re-create their offices on the road, both on laptops and on programmable phones that can be used with a Palm handheld device, Eldad said. Sample prices for users to access the network are approximately $9.95 per day, according to 3Com.

The VCN plan "sounds innovative," said Christine Heckart, an analyst at TeleChoice Inc. in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "It's a place I think they could . . . dominate the market."

The VCN can handle live streaming video and high-quality voice simultaneously, Eldad said. 3Com, through a service provider, would install a device in each room to provide users with network access. The company currently has deals with three firms that have agreed to offer the VCN technology to their phone clients.

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