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New Year Special Features '99

  • CATV Operator to Offer Cable Internet Access Via HomeRun
  • January 11, 1999 (TOKYO) -- Musashino Mitaka CATV Co., Ltd., a CATV operator, said that it is preparing to launch a new CATV Internet access service using HomeRun technology from U.S.-based Tut Systems Inc.
    The new commercial service, which could be operating as early as April 1999, will target users residing in high-density housing, such as apartment buildings and condominiums. A trial of the service is set to begin in January, using eight households in Mitaka as monitors.

    CATV Internet services allow Internet access by utilizing the coaxial cables that the CATV operators have installed to transmit TV broadcasts to homes. Use of CATV networks to offer Internet access is advantageous because data can be transmitted at very high speeds, typically at several megabits per second.

    However, recently it has been difficult to offer these services to users living in apartment buildings. In high-density housing areas, where many users live in close proximity, a lot of noise (or ingress noise) is generated when data is sent in the upstream direction (or from the users' homes to the CATV station), and this can interfere with transmissions.

    To eliminate this noise problem preventative measures must be implemented, including the installation of filters or re-cabling work. However, implementing such measures usually means that the cost of constructing the network infrastructure spirals upwards, resulting in headaches for CATV operators.

    Around 70 percent of the total number households in the area covered by Musashino Mitaka CATV's services are in this high-density residential category. In an effort to increase the number of customers capable of using its Internet connection service, the company has decided to utilize Tut Systems' HomeRun technology for transmitting data in areas with high-density housing.

    HomeRun is a unique type of modem technology that has been proven to work when applied to ordinary copper wire telephone lines, where it enables data to be transmitted at speeds of up to 1Mbps. Also, it is capable of simultaneously transmitting both digital data and ordinary telephone voice data.

    A HomeRun adapter needs to be installed in the home of each user, and connected to the user's PC via 10BASE-T. Also, in each apartment building, a special HomeRun modem must be installed, to be shared by all customers in the building. This shared modem is connected, by means of telephone cables, to all the HomeRun adapters in the homes of users. A cable modem is connected to the apartment building's HomeRun modem, and it then becomes possible for users in the building to access the Internet via the CATV network.

    Fees for the HomeRun CATV Internet access service are yet to be decided. However, because the service's maximum data transmission speed will be 1Mbps, it will be less expensive than a service now available that makes use of cable modems to attain speeds of up to 10Mbps. The fees for that 10Mbps service start at 2,280 yen (US$20.30) per month (for 4 hours of access time during a month).

    Musashino Mitaka CATV had considered other options for providing its service to potential users living in apartment buildings. The company considered the use of LAN cables and xDSL (Digital Subscriber Line) technology.

    The drawback with the LAN cable option is that the costs of laying the cables would have been too high, and in some cases it would have been physically impossible to carry out the necessary installation work. As for the possibility of using xDSL technology, the company discovered that the big problem was the high costs to set up the system.

    Market prices for xDSL modems mean that the cost, per line, would range from 200,000 yen to over 300,000 yen (US$1,785-US$2,680), making the xDSL option prohibitively expensive.

    Thus, the company decided to opt for HomeRun, as a more economical solution. According to Rikei Corp., which handles sales of Tut Systems' products in Japan, HomeRun can do the job at a cost of around 120,000 yen (US$1,070) per line.

    Tut Systems and Rikei are working together to develop a smaller-scale HomeRun modem, designed specifically for the Japanese apartment building market, which they say will cut the cost of introducing the equipment by around 30 percent. Also, Tut Systems seeks to incorporate a function to allow the maximum data transmission speed to be set at 128kbps.

    (Nikkei Communications)

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    Updated: Fri Jan 8 15:25:54 1999 PDT