Panasonic Shows Off Broadband Over Powerline At CES - InformationWeek

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1/8/2008
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Panasonic Shows Off Broadband Over Powerline At CES

Among the powerline products were a photo printer, Ethernet bridges, a USB hub, a Wi-Fi router, a WiMax router, an MP4 player, and a point-of-sales computer.

Panasonic is known for its huge TVs, not for its networking technologies. One of the company's biggest draws at the Consumer Electronics Show this year is a 150 inch plasma television. Yet, there also was a sizable convention booth loaded with Panasonic gear for broadband-over-powerline, which uses the electrical wiring in a home or building to transmit data signals.

Among the powerline products, many of them prototypes, was a photo printer, all sorts of Ethernet bridges, a USB hub, a Wi-Fi router, a WiMax router, an MP4 player, a point-of-sales computer, and Ethernet phone adapters, many of them from Panasonic itself.

Despite years of promise, broadband-over-powerline has had little success in the United States. In late 2006, the FCC passed a resolution endorsing the technology, and IEEE last year moved to draft standards for the technology. Robin Sweeten, group manager of strategic marketing for Panasonic, said in an interview that issues with interference that had long gotten amateur radio operators in a bind have been smoothed out. Now the challenge, he said, is consumer awareness.

"It's kind of a running joke that we've kept this kind of a secret here," Sweeten said. Panasonic was once part of the HomePlug Alliance, which is the most visible broadband-over-powerline proponent in the United States, but they've since parted ways.

The company has close to 100% market share of broadband-over-powerline devices in Japan, where broadband is more prevalent, and Sweeten hinted that once consumers in the United States begin streaming high-definition video around their homes, Panasonic will likely introduce more broadband-over-powerline products in the United States. "That's the starting point: to give consumers the ability to link whatever they want in the house," Sweeten said, adding that home and office automation are likely future applications for the technology.

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