Plug into the Net

Canadian telecommunications company, Northern Telecom Ltd (Nortel) and United Utilities PLC, have formed a joint company, NOR.WEB DPL, to develop and market their data-over-powerlines technology, dubbed Digital PowerLine.

Canadian telecommunications company, Northern Telecom Ltd (Nortel) and United Utilities PLC, have formed a joint company, NOR.WEB DPL, to develop and market their data-over-powerlines technology, dubbed Digital PowerLine.

Digital PowerLine will eventually provide Internet access over electricity cables at up to 1.5Mbps and for prices "well below" current usage-based ISP charges, according to John Beckitt, executive director of United Utilities and chairman of NOR.WEB. "This technology has the power to revolutionise communications in the home," he said, "and unlike traditional modem access, Digital PowerLine gives users a permanent connection to the Internet."

The announcement was welcomed by the UK's largest dial-up ISP, Demon Internet, as yet another way of accessing the Internet. James Gardiner, Demon's marketing manager told ZDNet News: "Anything that reduces the barrier to getting on the Internet is a good thing." Asked if Digital PowerLine would affect Demon's dial-up business, Gardiner hinted at a potential future relationship between the two companies: "Absolutely not. NOR.WEB will want the best Internet access for its customers and that's where we come in. We have the backbone, along with six years experience in this market."

So far, ten international utility companies have licenced Digital PowerLine which is based on a modified version of the cordless telephone specification CT-2, previously seen in the now defunct Rabbit system. The technology uses radio frequencies on top of the mains electricity supply to deliver data. A new version of the system, DPL 1000, demonstrated at CeBIT on March 18th, will be tested in homes in the UK, Germany, Singapore and Scandinavia, among other countries.

NOR.WEB expects the new technology to be used for high-speed Internet access, multimedia, smart applications, remote control, home automation and security, online banking and shopping, as well as entertainment and IP telephony. If the service proves usable, commercially viable and popular it may be launched in the UK for general consumption some time next year.

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