Start-up aims for powerline market

Paul Boughton

Start-up company SiCOnnect has launched a chip for data over power lines that it says will start shipping at $5.

The POEM technology will provide real time data rates typically between 7 and 14Mbit/s over the existing power wiring in a house. This will be sufficient for streaming an IPTV digital TV stream or distributing 5.1 audio around a room.

The technology was originally developed in another startup called nSine, but SiConnect has developed the technology, which uses four separate and adaptive frequency bands to avoid interference on the power line. It also uses a synchronous mesh network protocol so that if one link is low quality, a signal can be re-routed via another pair of sockets. This halves the available bandwidth but allows the technology to work in almost all houses.

The first generation of chip will sample in Q3 this year, made in a 0.18um process by Chartered Semiconductor. A shrink to 0.13um will increase the performance to 30Mbit/s in 2007 for HDTV streaming, says Trevor Sokell, chief executive.

The company is working with OEMs and telecoms operators that are part of the Home Gateway Initiative that needs at least eight levels of quality of service. This is a key advantage over other wireless and powerline technologies, says Sokell, and the POEM technology is also intrinsically a third of the cost of other versions that use spread spectrum technology.

Meanwhile Spanish powerline chip developer DS2 has teamed up with Chinese manufacturer Cameo Communications to develop products based on DS2´s technology. While this has a headline rate of 200Mbit/s, the real throughput is significantly lower as it depends on the quality of the link between the power sockets and ensuring the power emitted from the lines conforms to the European EN550222 standard for conducted emissions and the CISPR22 standard in the rest of the world.

The DS2-based product lineup includes wall-plug format adapters in addition to a variety of different consumer networking device applications. “DS2´s high performance, mature chips provide the best price/performance ratio on the market as well as being the only mature standards based HD quality chips available for product development today,” said Frank Kuo, Director of Cameo's Technology Research and Development Centre.

For more information, visit