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Phonex bridge supports Ethernet, USB connectivity

Posted: 10 Jan 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:phoex broadband? neverwire? usb bridge? ethernet bridge? readywire?

Phonex Broadband Corp. demonstrated its expanding interest in power line networking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. The company's NeverWire combination USB/Ethernet bridge, which will ship in volume in Q2, won the ICES 2003 Innovations Design and Engineering Showcase honors at this year's show. Phonex also disclosed early design information on a digital version of its popular ReadyWire jack, this one deploying an internally developed ARM-based ASIC.

The NeverWire bridge unit uses the X1 MAC-layer and PHY-layer power line chip from Intellon Corp. Phonex has offered NeverWire bridges for either Ethernet or the USB, but the combo device is intended for games and computing platforms where flexibility between USB connectivity and Ethernet home LANs is desired. It will list at $99 per node or $189 per set, with retail discounting available.

When used with a broadband Internet access device and home router, NeverWire allows home-networking functions to be distributed to any computer, peripheral or games device in a house, said Brad Warnock, director of marketing at Phonex.

The system is as flexible as most 802.11 installations and can offer wider distribution from access points for some home layouts. Any room that has an ac power outlet can be connected to the network with a 14Mbit connection. Software is included to set up 56-bit Data Encryption Standard (DES) security between units and USB device drivers.

When units ship in Q2, they will support all European outlets through a detachable power cord optimized for specific host countries.

Digital follow-on

Phonex is also close to having initial prototypes for a digital upgrade of its popular analog ReadyWire telephone jack. The product, which ships in quantities of about 1 million units per year, is popular with the satellite TV set-top industry for allowing phone connectivity where power outlets exist.

The company hired a team of ASIC designers to come up with a digital follow-on to ReadyJack, which could be used in multiphone, multiple-audio-stream, and home automation applications.

The new ReadyWire will support as many as seven simultaneous full-duplex voice streams or up to 15 simplex audio streams. In home automation, it can support 250 devices per domain, in up to 15 domains. Audio codecs are integrated into the ASIC, and QoS algorithms supported in hardware allow traffic streams to be prioritized on either a per-channel or per-packet basis.

The ASIC is based on an ARM 946 core that can support PHY streams of 1.9Mbps. When FEC is added, capacity per channel is roughly 600Kbps. Warnock said the core offers 134MIPS, of which Phonex employs about 40MIPS, so the company will offer its software-development partners direct-function calls to the processor. Close to 100MIPS of additional processing power will be available for specialized applications.

The digital ReadyWire will support triple-DES encryption. The full bill of materials costs less than $15 in high volume.

- Loring Wirbel

EE Times

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