Line Broadband Has Arrived
By Dana Greenlee, Co-host WebTalk Radio
Promises easier and more convenient access to
the Internet, although some critics note it could
cause radio interference problems.
Broadband connectivity over power lines has been
in development for years with the promise of easy
and convenient Internet access. A recent announcement
this month proclaimed the first large-scale deployment
of broadband over power line (BPL) technology
to millions of Cinergy power customers in Ohio,
Indiana and Kentucky.
Luke Stewart, CEO of Media Fusions HyperWires.com
thinks broadband over power lines
is an idea whose time has come. The goal is to
enable everyday net users access to the
Internet simply by plugging their Internet appliance,
laptop, media center or desktop PC into an electrical
outlet in their house and get cable and DSL speeds.
BPL is not without its detractors. A member of
the National Association of Amateur Radio e-mailed
me a few days after my interview with Stewart
was broadcast on the radio. He said, The
negative aspects of power line broadband are potential
The Amateur Radio Relay League CEO David Sumner
posted this on their organizations Website:
Any listing of the pros and cons of using
power lines to deliver broadband services must
mention its major disadvantage: It pollutes the
radio spectrum, interfering with nearby radio
receivers. The frequencies in question are used
by public safety agencies, the military, aeronautical
and maritime services, broadcasters, radio astronomers,
radio amateurs, and others.
Solutions are in the works, however. Massachusetts-based
Ambient states that it is possible to avoid interference
to nearby transceivers.
The Federal Communication Commission wants filter
technology used whenever BPL is deployed. The
FCC's proposed amendment for requirements and
guidelines on this issue says "Ambient states
that if a sub-band is being used by a nearby transceiver,
the BPL modem transmitter can be programmed to
avoid transmitting on that sub-band, or "notch"
Stewart took a few minutes to elaborate on the
new BPL development.
Q: Broadband over power lines has been in development
for many years. Give us a little description of
what the technology does and how it works.
Stewart: Inductive couplers are used to put a
signal onto the actual electrical wire that generally
brings power to your home. These couplers are
excited in such a way as to put a signal in parallel
streaming with your electricity, carrying either
content or opening a channel for communication
much like your home phone line would. Many of
the companies use different coupling and encoding
technology, but it all does basically the same
thing where you have the coupler that puts the
signal on the wire, then you have a set of repeaters
that carries the signal for some distance and
then you have something that looks like a plug
that goes into your outlet that you can plug your
computer into and get Internet capability.
Q: Its a cool idea to plug in your laptop
to any outlet in your house and get on the Internet.
What type of hardware do you have to have in order
to make that connection happen in your home?
Stewart: You just need to have the modem and you
need to be in the service area where one of the
BPL providers has put it on the grid.
Q: Why will broadband over power lines catch on
in the marketplace where we already have DSL and
cable and growing wireless access? What differentiates
BPL so it can compete, or will it just be a complementary
Stewart: I would like the ease of going to any
place in my home or large building and access
my own electronic data spaces by moving from plug
to plug or by putting any number of people online
by plugging them in. Its a very novel notion.
Besides the convenience, look at the way technology
has improved. For instance, when the cellular
business first came out, it had spotty services,
dropped calls and not very good coverage. Now
you have nationwide coverage. The wireless industry
has proved to be very robust.
In the beginning, BPL may look similar because
it may only appear in certain areas. But as the
technology is more integrated within the electrical
systems, not only will the technology become more
robust and available at lower costs, but the acceleration
of putting content to your home through the wall
outlet will occur in parallel.
Q: Is this option a threat to the Baby Bells and
Stewart: The two things that drive the industry
are costs and consumer confidence. If the phone
companies decided it would make more sense to
incorporate additional technologies including
broadband over power lines, I dont think
they would find it such a threat. When you try
to segregate your technology and force the federal
government to go under deregulation and special
regulatory practices, that sets the stage that
threatens those entities far worse than any new
technology. From the consumers point of view,
any way he can get services that are cheaper and
more reliable is a benefit to him. The battlefield
isnt really between technology issues, but
business practice issues.
Q: One of the concepts that your company is pushing
is what youre referring to as a hybrid version.
It uses existing optical fiber networks in conjunction
with power lines?
Stewart: Absolutely. We know a lot of utilities
not only have electrical infrastructures but have
large amounts of fiber that are pulled in various
service territories. In order to bring speedier
access - or hyper access, as we like to talk about
it - a customer would be able to take advantage
of both the current technology of DSL speeds and,
by putting this link with the fiber to the first
injection where you put your signals on the wire
to the home, you open up the back end for interoperability
- we call it making it upward compatible - so
you can now start delivering other types of content
because you have a fiber connection point directly
to it. We think thats the best scenario.
We think people are really going to like getting
450 channels out of the wall plug!
Q: Sounds great. What can we do to encourage this
Stewart: Talk to your local power coordinators.
Maybe talk to people in the utility industry.
Its certainly good to let the FCC and your
local representatives, Senators and Congressman
know that there is an interest because all the
effort translates to grass root changes. I always
think about all the consumers who get this ability
to move around in their home to get Internet access,
but its also really neat that schools get
the capability to let everybody plug in wherever
they want. Hospitals and other large structures
can benefit a great deal as well.
Information about broadband over power lines is
available at www.hyperwires.com. For more conversation
with Luke Stewart, the full interview is available
About Source of Article
Dana Greenlee is co-host/producer of the WebTalkGuys
Radio Show http://www.webtalkguys.com/, a Tacoma-based
radio and Webcast show featuring technology news