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Ascom races ahead with Internet access using electricity supply

Dialling up the World Wide Web is no longer necessary with Powerline technology

Switzerland's largest telecommunications group, Ascom, says it will begin mass production next month of adapters which allow access to the Internet through the electricity supply.

The announcement was made at the world's largest technology trade fair, CeBIT 2001, which is taking place in Hannover, Germany.

Ascom has already signed a contract with Germany's biggest power supplier, RWE, and has agreed to provide tens of thousands of adapters by the middle of May.

Spokesman, Stephan Howeg, said the group was also looking further afield: "We are in negotiations with main power suppliers in the bigger European markets as well as Asia Pacific and we are pretty confident of closing a contract within the next month."

Powerline technology offers a number of advantages over existing systems. Users can access the World Wide Web simply by plugging into any electrical socket. Connections are not only considerably faster than an ISDN line but also easier to use.

Ascom expects the biggest take-up is likely to be in countries where the existing telecommunications networks are incomplete or insufficiently developed.

"The main advantage of Powerline will be 'plug and pay' technology," Howeg told swissinfo. "Households all over the world have access to power but not access to telecom infrastructure.

"In the industrialised markets, Powerline Communications will be a supplementary access technology besides ADSL and wireless. In countries where the telecom infrastructure is not available all over the place or only available with huge delays, Powerline will be an alternative access technology."

Ascom has conducted 16 field trials for over a year in 12 parts of the world including Hong Kong, South Africa, Brazil and Moscow.

For the Bern-based group, the Swiss market could be one of the hardest to crack, said Howeg.

"In Switzerland, a few suppliers are interested but the liberalisation of the power market is not as advanced as it is in other countries and the suppliers are cautiously observing what is going on in other countries.

"Within a year, Powerline Communications could be available but not in an extended way."

by Vincent Landon


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