Motorola to Combine Powerline, Wireless

By Eric Griffith

August 11, 2005

The company is investing in and using chips from Intellon, with plans to unite HomePlug and its own Canopy system for use by utilities turned ISPs.

For many, Motorola is synonymous with wireless, but the company is moving into a new area for broadband—power lines.

Yesterday it was announced that Motorola will be using chipsets (model INT5200) from Intellon of Ocala, Fla., to provide HomePlug 1.0-based Broadband over Powerline (BPL) products for utility companies looking to turn into Internet Service Providers. They will do this by combining BPL with Canopy, Motorola's own proprietary wireless broadband platform. Motorola will call its HomePlug products Powerline LV (the LV is for low-voltage).

"There's a number of ways to approach BPL in the market," says Andy Melder, Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Business Development at Intellon. "Many of the technologies today include Wi-Fi to the home from the pole."

Melder says Motorola can now use Canopy for that last-mile connection, using HomePlug for distribution -- or use HomePlug to the home while Canopy handles backhaul. He calls Motorola's solutions "flexible... they're looking at a couple of different topologies."

Motorola said in an announcement that "Only three pieces of equipment are needed to connect a customer to the broadband network: the Powerline LV access point cluster, an integrated antenna and bridge router, and an Intellon-enabled modem."

HomePlug 1.0 is the current standard for moving data over power lines, and is found in many products, including those meant to bridge wireless networks. Melder says Intellon's position on wireless networks is that power lines can be a backbone for them. "We won't displace other technologies like Wi-Fi, which has a strong and loyal base," he says. "[HomePlug] allows other technologies to be better."

HomePlug 1.0 is limited to 14Mbps data rates, however. The next generation spec, HomePlug AV, will jump to 200Mbps. It is designed specifically to handle the higher bandwidth of things like voice and video, but with backwards compatibility with 1.0. Intellon will sell chips for AV called INT6000 later this year.

HomePlug BPL is another specification on the HomePlug Alliance roadmap, setting a standard for ISPs looking to use power lines for access.

Intellon created an intermediate step, called 1.0 with Turbo, that provides higher throughput of 85Mbps. Motorola will probably move to using those chips, the INT5500CS, when the chips are readily available.

In addition to combining HomePlug and Canopy, Motorola has also invested in Intellon's second round of funding. The full announcement hasn't been made yet, but Melder says Motorola is one of a few companies putting money into the HomePlug chip maker.

"We looked at the nature of the [funding] round for the strategic alignments... now that the technology is out, AV is coming, it's a time to align with appropriate partners, industry leaders in consumer electronics, communications, and telecommunications ecosystems," says Melder.

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