Netgear Plugs Itself Into Powerline Network Bridge


Home-networking provider Netgear Inc. is powering up its new access product, aimed at mixing wired and wireless broadband links in the high-speed data home.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company recently debuted its XE102 Wall-Plugged Ethernet Bridge, a plug-in powerline networking device that provides a data link as fast as 14 Megabits per second.

Although it has not gained as much consumer attention as wireless 802.11 schemes, the idea of powerline home networking is not new. The HomePlug Powerline Alliance, a vendor group, issued its first standard in 2001, and since then 11 vendors have fielded certified products, including Netgear.

Since the XE102 uses standard Ethernet protocol, the unit is virtually plug-and-play and can link directly to a cable or digital subscriber line modem, according to Kartik Gada, product line manager. Via an Ethernet port, the XE102 can link directly to any wireless home-networking router.

"You can get Ethernet from your electrical outlets," Gada said. "It makes it very simple, no extra wires, no hassles. It's direct plug-and-play, so you don't have to do any fancy configuration or anything."

Already available at Circuit City and CompUSA, the XE102 sells for $80 per plug-in, although there are some online offers for as little as $63. Customers need at least two plugs to connect the base router to at least one peripheral device.

Netgear is positioning the XE102 as a boost to wireless home schemes, extending the network's reach to parts of the house that wireless signals can't penetrate — such as metal walls or floors, or areas in which home appliances such as cordless phones and microwaves throw up significant interference.

"We hope to provide it as a complementary solution to wireless, so that anyone in a household can use this or wireless," Gada said.