Home networking made easy with AMD chip

If you have two computers in your house and you want to play games from different rooms or have simultaneous Internet access, AMD has come up with a solution.

The PCnet-Home controller is a single-chip device that will link PCs together with one phone jack. The device will marry Ethernet with telephone wiring allowing network data to be carried down the phone line without incompatibility.

The solution could make life a lot easier. Currently connecting multiple PCs is a complex process requiring a lot of unwieldy and unsightly cable and a steep learning curve to come up to scratch on how to maintain an Ethernet repeater and learn complex networking protocols. AMD promises easy installation, with a point-and-click wizard. One drawback -- every PC will need access to a phone line.

Claes Berglund, marketing manager for AMD believes the technology has mass market appeal and both Compaq and IBM have shown interest in the chip. "This technology won't become successful unless it is incorporated into the PC by the manufacturers," he said.

With home networking an ever-growing market -- in 1997 8 per cent of homes in the UK had two or more computers according to MORI research -- a lot of chip manufacturers are keen to jump on the band wagon. Speaking at the Networking Symposium in February, Intel's president and chief operating officer recognised the huge potential of the market. "Home networking and small business connectivity are huge opportunities," he said.

Certainly this is true in the US. Currently, about a third of U.S. PC sales are to the home market, but less than 1 per cent of those PCs are networked, according to Mark Christensen, vice president of Intel's small business and networking group. "Every PC in the world is a connected device or will be soon," said Christensen. The chip giant estimates that 300 million networked PCs will be in use by the year 2000, and more than 1 billion by 2005. Reportedly Intel are pilot testing a power-line network in the UK

Director of communications at Compaq Mark A. Carpenter believes a single chip solution is an exciting prospect. "AMD adds another critical building block in the advancement of industry growth toward an inexpensive, easy-to-use home networking solution," he said.

AMD expects to begin shipments to manufacturers of the device in December. Available in a 160-pin PQFP package, it will cost around £9 in quantities of 10,000 or more. The company predicts this can be manufactured at a cost of less than £30 or can be integrated onto the PC or printer motherboard.

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