Utilities Switch On Broadband Over Powerlines

Broadband over Powerline (BPL) is an emerging technology that may shake up the competitive world of broadband Internet and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. It offers high-speed access to your home through the most unlikely path, a common electrical outlet, allowing you to plug your computer into any electrical outlet in your home and instantly have access to high-speed Internet.

Combining the technological principles of radio, wireless networking and modems, the technology can be used to send data over power lines and into homes at speeds equivalent to DSL and cable. In Singapore, Pacific Internet is one of two ISPs trialling the technology in conjunction with Singapore Power. The Singapore trial is currently sustaining connection speeds of 2.2Mbit/s – faster than Telstra ADSL. Elsewhere in the world, power lines are running at 4.5Mbit/s, and ultimately the technology supports speeds of up to 10Mbit/s. It also allows utilities to tap existing infrastructure cheaply, fill market gaps in underserved regions and benefit from plummeting equipment costs.

For instance, the city of Manassas in Virginia has signed a deal with local utility Communication Technologies to extend broadband services across the city’s powerlines to 15,000 residential and commercial locations for less than $30 (£16) a month. Revenue is then shared between the city and the utility, as long as they adhere to powerline radiation-emission restrictions and follow consistent and repeatable measurement guidelines set out by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

It’s not all been going smoothly for the new technology though. The two test plants near Rochester, NY, both pulled the plug on their setups when the cost analysis came in. There was a major interference issue on BPL also, but the final argument was decided due to the money.