The Chinese government plans to provide high-speed internet access to the west of the country by using power lines as soon as next year. Xeline, which makes chipsets and last-mile solutions for data transmission over household electric power lines, is partnering with a firm controlled by the State Power Telecommunication Centre to undertake a trial in 10,000 homes in Beijing. It would push the service to 20,000 households by year's end. 'The government has expressed that the technology is ready for commercial launch,' said David Pun, business development director of Hong Kong-based Melodies & Memories, which develops digital solutions for Xeline's power-line platform. 'It will announce next year the details of a sizable launch. The service will be firstly available in remote villages in the west.' Power-line communication technology uses standard household electrical outlets to provide broadband connection. Instead of using phone lines, cables or fibre optics, users need only connect a Xeline modem to any power outlets at home. The service being tested in Beijing includes voice-over internet protocol solutions and intelligent home networks, which use the power-line internet to control home appliances. 'Not many homes in China have telephone lines or are covered with fibre-optic networks,' Mr Pun said. 'But most have electricity at home, which is already ready for power-line services.' Last year, CLP Holdings, Hongkong Electric Holdings and its parent Cheung Kong (Holdings) formed a joint venture called PowerCom Network Hong Kong to offer broadband internet access via electrical wires within buildings in the city. But the service has not become a reality yet, mainly due to a conventional monopoly by telecoms companies over internet access. In China, however, high-speed internet access is less common. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, internet penetration in cities such as Shanghai reaches more than 30 per cent but in smaller centres, only 27 per cent are going online. 'The Chinese government said [power-line communication] is not going to compete with [asymmetric digital subscriber line] or cable,' Mr Pun said. 'It rather provides an alternative to accelerate internet usage in China.'