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A new swine flu pandemic could have a major impact on the capabilities of residential broadband networks, according to research body Gartner.

The intelligence organisation has claimed that some networks may not be able to cope with demand for web services if a large number of people are forced to work from home to avoid catching the illness.

Eric Paulak, Managing Vice-President of Gartner, said the problem does not lie with the backbone network, but the "edge" or "last mile" in the internet access loop.

"Within the switching office, surges in demand will overload the local connection to the backbone networks, because carriers typically do not design for excess residential capacity," he explained.

Warnings over the issue have come after research by Gartner revealed that one in five households worldwide will have a fixed broadband connection by the end of this year.

A total of 422 million homes are expected to have the services at the start of 2010.

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