Swiss-German Plug-In Device Offers Instant Web Access

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Ascom Powerline Communications and RWE Powerline, firms based in Switzerland and Germany, respectively, have developed a plug-in device that allows instant, high-speed access to the Web from any outlet in a user's home or office.

Ascom will deliver the device to RWE Powerline -- a subsidiary of RWE, one of Germany's largest utilities -- for distribution later this year to a potential of 12 million households in two German states.

A test of 200 households in Essen, a city in the Ruhr River region, has been under way since May last year, according to an RWE spokesman. "We've had no problems in running it," the spokesman said.

RWE must install a device within the power supply of homes or offices in need of a connection. However, no extra cables or dial-up methods are needed.

The technology is known as Powerline Communications and allows data transfer of up to two megabytes per second.

With the successful test behind them, the companies plan to roll out the device this month in Essen and Muelheim, another Ruhr River city, and then move it into other areas in which RWE supplies power during the second half of the year.

Short term, the plug-in would be limited to Germany. However, Ascom, which handled the technological end of development, eventually could sell it abroad.

The major market for the device is home use of computers as well as small companies that cannot or do not need network applications.

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