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Bridging Wireless to Electrical

Intellon Corporation of Ocala, FL, is the mastermind behind the technology in the HomePlug 1.0 specification. HomePlug lets home and SOHO networks run over the existing powerlines in a building. Whatever you feelings about the potential success of powerline-based networks, it's likely you never considered it in the same breath as 802.11 wireless.

Intellon hopes to change that.

The company has introduced a reference design for what it calls the RD51X1-AP. This HomePlug wall module -- it plugs right into the AC outlet -- is equipped with a Compact Flash slot. By inserting an 802.11b adapter into the slot, the module becomes a self-powered access point, bridging between a home network's HomePlug "backbone" and its 802.11 clients.

"We've had lots of requests from customers that were making 11b products in volume, to bridge the gap between both worlds," says Arnaud J. Perrier, Product Marketing Manager at Intellon. The company does not sell any retail products itself. Its customers are the OEM manufacturers that use Intellon chips and designs to make HomePlug products. Among current Intellon customers are Linksys, Netgear, and Efficient Networks.

"Many users have problems with wireless coverage," says Perrier. "The access point is in the den and you can't get coverage in some rooms of the house. The key is in bridging those rooms. Since the speed and throughput are similar, you can use the powerline as the backbone."

At the Physical Layer of the network, HomePlug runs at 14Mbps; 802.11b at 11Mbps. (In reality, due to network overhead, the speeds are about half that.)

OEM companies can get the complete reference design kit for $1500.

The RD51X1-AP reference design runs on the Intellon INT51X1 HomePlug Integrated Circuit (IC) which was announced in July in conjunction with UMC, the semiconductor foundry making the chips. The INT51X1 also runs the companies USB-to-HomePlug and Ethernet-to-HomePlug bridge designs. Perrier expects many of the companies with HomePlug products will have a version of the Wi-Fi-to-HomePlug bridge available this fall.

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

802.11 Planet Conference Where else will wireless converge with on the network? Join us at the 802.11 Planet Conference & Expo, Dec. 3-5 in Santa Clara, CA. One of our sessions will cover Voice-Data Convergence on the WLAN.