• United States
Senior Editor

A look at broadband over power lines

Aug 23, 20042 mins

* What BPL techology does and why interest in it is growing

Delivering broadband services over power lines sounded a little far-fetched a few years ago but no more. Four utilities – including Cynergy in Cincinnati, Pennsylvania Power & Light, and Central Virginia Coop – have rolled out commercial broadband over power line (BPL) offerings this year and more are on the way. Last year, for example, there were about a dozen utilities conducting field trials, but no commercial deployments. This year, in addition to the four commercial ventures, the number of field trials has increased to more than three dozen.

According to our Special Focus author ( BPL basically moves data over electrical distribution networks. Providers say BPL throughput speeds can be anywhere from 300K to 2M bit/sec, about the same as cable and DSL, but that they can provide the service at a cheaper rate. The primary benefit of BPL, however, is that it can be delivered over an existing infrastructure: any site with power outlets can be hooked up to a high-speed broadband connection.

But hurdles do remain – such as standards setting and opposition from groups such amateur radio enthusiasts who claim the technology causes too much radio interference. Analysts are also lukewarm on BPL’s prospects for taking significant market share from DSL and cable.

They note that cable and DSL have matured to provide more than a single “big pipe,” bundling other services into their offerings. That’s something that BPL will have to do, as well, they say.

Nevertheless, the continuing maturity of BPL technology and a growing number of positive experiences with field trials, in addition to the government support, is helping spur more interest in the technology.

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