Broadcom Enters Home-Networking Field


Broadcom Corp. became the latest technology company to jump
on the crowded home-networking bandwagon when it announced last week that it will develop
-- together with Tut Systems Inc. -- products including a network-interface card for
personal computers and a cable-modem reference design.

The NIC, according to Aidan O'Rourke, director of
home-networking products for Broadcom, will be an integrated media-access-control and
physical-layer device using Broadcom chip sets.

The reference design will enable cable modems to function
as "gateway" devices, bridging the wider HFC (hybrid fiber-coaxial) and Internet
networks to a local-area network in the home, he said.

Products resulting from the Broadcom/Tut collaboration are
expected later this year.

Pleasant Hills, Calif.-based Tut has positioned itself as a
major technology provider in the burgeoning home-networking market.

Its technologies have been adopted by the Home Phoneline
Networking Alliance (HomePNA), a group of more than 50 companies pushing for a interface
standard that uses a home's existing phone-line wiring to create a home network.

With this announcement, Tut extends its presence within the
cable-vendor community. In December, Motorola Inc. announced that it is licensing
home-networking technology from Tut.

Home-networking technology is intended to extend the
broadband-data connection coming into the home to multiple PCs or TVs. Eventually, the
home-networking industry hopes to enable shared video and multimedia applications
throughout the home via wireline or wireless connections.

The Broadcom/Tut collaboration is expected to produce
products that meet and exceed throughput of 10 megabits per second. While the current
HomePNA spec (1.0) accommodates a 1-mbps rate, higher rates are needed for video and audio
applications, and they will be addressed by HomePNA's 2.0 spec.

"Broadcom's and Tut's combined expertise has
made it possible to raise the bar on home-networking performance beyond 10 mbps,"
said Henry T. Nicholas III, Broadcom's president and CEO, in a prepared statement.

With this announcement, Broadcom is extending its expertise
in the cable-modem, digital set-top and corporate-networking markets into home networking,
Nicholas said.

Broadband access, said Kevin Hause, manager of
consumer-device research for International Data Corp., is one of the key drivers of the
quickly rising home-networking industry. "Home networking and broadband access are
evolving in parallel," he said.

Broadcom's entry into this market is significant,
Hause pointed out, because a competing silicon supplier, Epigram Inc., is pushing its own
10-mbps solution.

"Both companies will be pushing to make [their
solutions] a standard with the HomePNA," Hause said. There are a significant amount
of intellectual-property, license and royalty revenues at stake, he added.

Plus, if the HomePNA adopts Epigram's technology,
"it will make it more difficult for Broadcom to push its technology into the market
and to find partnerships with OEMs [original-equipment manufacturers]," Hause said.