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Now, Data Can Hitchhike On Tv Signals


Developments to Watch

NOW, DATA CAN HITCHHIKE ON TV SIGNALS

In the next few years, more and more traffic will crowd the nation's information highways. Hospitals will transmit X-ray images to specialists hundreds of miles away, students will tap into distant research libraries, and executives will log into computer networks from home. But for this to happen on a grand scale, faster data communications are needed. Although fiber-optics will be a huge improvement, it will be decades before U.S. homes and businesses are fully connected.

Researchers at WavePhore Inc., a Phoenix startup, have developed a way to ease the bottleneck: a method for sending data on TV signals. At the transmission end, a $15,000 encoder compresses video data and inserts it into the TV signal. Then, with a $3,000 decoder, anyone who receives the signal--either through the airwaves or cable--can read the data. Within a year, predicts Charles Jungo, WavePhore's director of engineering, the system's speed--384,000 bits per second--will be increased to 1.5 million bits per second. Company executives envision myriad uses, such as doubling the number of movies a cable company can offer and bringing CD-ROM libraries and local-area networks to the home. "What we've done is to open up broad-band communications at low cost," says Jungo.EDITED BY WILLIAM D. MARBACH


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