Broadband over powerlines gets a boost

Broadband over powerlines gets a boost

Summary: Broadband over powerlines (BPL) may get a much-needed boost from a deal between Current Group and DirecTV. On Wednesday, Current and DirecTV announced a distribution agreement (see Techmeme roundup) that will allow the satellite TV giant to distribute Current's broadband and VOIP services by the end of 2007 and 2008.


Broadband over powerlines (BPL) may get a much-needed boost from a deal between Current Group and DirecTV.

On Wednesday, Current and DirecTV announced a distribution agreement (see Techmeme roundup) that will allow the satellite TV giant to distribute Current's broadband and VOIP services by the end of 2007 and 2008. The gallery at right details how BPL works.

The pact gets both companies out of a pickle. DirecTV is struggling to offer broadband service as telecoms and cable companies bundle services. And Current needs a bigger footprint to make BPL a credible rival to cable and telecom providers.

Under the deal, DirecTV will have access to the Current network and distribute BPL modems. Current service will initially be offered in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. From there, DirecTV will offer the BPL service to other areas as they come online.

See Broadband over powerlines: It may take awhile

Although the DirecTV arrangement is a nice start, it's still early in the BPL game. On paper, accessing a broadband network by merely plugging a modem in is attractive. But Current's footprint is still small.

With any luck, BPL will get more exposure through this deal and gain momentum. As a consumer, I'll be happy to have another broadband option.

Topics: Broadband, Networking

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  • Who Needs BPL First?

    It amazes me when I see the roll-out of a service that hundreds of thousands of us (probably millions of us) have been impatiently waiting for too many years now. Broadband over Power Lines.

    When I read in this article that this service would first roll out in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I was livid. They've already got high speed available in several forms. Give it to the folks that need it. The same folk who haven't had it for way too long. We folks out here in the boonies. We've asked; begged and shouted for high speed Internet to the rich, greedy, corporate uncaring, deaf ears for years now.

    Now you want to start BPL off in a market already saturated with broadband. Crazy. Send it to THE MASES who REALLY need and want it if you really want a pat on the back and some undeserved praise.

    Pardon me while I mouse over and click on "Submit My Reply" and then go off to eat breakfast, watch paint dry, or go off and grow hair while this message transmits!
    • Dang Right!

      It's almost as bad as when AT&T/Bell South scammed the public out of Billions of dollars in subsidies for "infrastructure" improvements with intent promises of have hi-speed data service over copper phone lines. They got the money and where is our hi-speed service? Of course now they are competing with cable services amazingly copper is able to transmit data at high speed and it should be here soon. Riiight!
      So far at home, "in the boonies", I can barley get 32kb. Not worth the trouble! If congress would get of their sorry "DRM, RIAA butt kissing rears and put the heat on the telecoms we could be running with the rest of the world. I guess not enough has been deposited into the "Proper" accounts.
  • Yeah, but.....

    Sigh - Let us not forget that BPL has the potential to interfer with large chunks of radio spectrum unless certain technologies are used. See for example -
    Bruce L
    • True...But!

      That IS a possibility but...follow the MONEY. It won't stop these folks if it gets in the way of the Lucor.

      The radio spectrums will have to get out of the way!!!

      usad @ 28.8 bit p e r s e c o n d
  • RF Pollution

    Does Current and Direct TV work with ARRL so that they do not cause damage to radio frequencies that are licensed by the FCC? There has been considerable concerns about the RF noise that BPL generates and how some companies, Motorola is one I think, that are working very diligently to ensure that radio communications do not suffer from the noise that some BPL systems seem to generate. It is extremely critical to preserve the radio frequencies that are used for normal communication and in emergency and disaster situations, called into duty. It doesn't do any good to call for help if the receiving station can not hear it over the BPL noise. I hope Current and Direct TV take responsible steps to preserve radio communications.
  • BPL a BAD Idea!

    There are organizations within our own government that have advised BPL WILL cause interference to THEIR bands, but the FCC is deaf. BIG MONEY TALKS PEOPLE!
  • Who cares

    Hams are ancient! Lets move into the modern technology & stop this insane bickering about interference about a few Ham radio operators. Take thier band & give them another. Jeez. This has been back & forth for years. Lest get on with our lives.
    • Who Cares, I Care

      Hams are ancient. Why don't you pull you head out of the sand and look around. Your comments show you know nothing about radio, or the radio band. Hams are not the only ones who will be effected. How would you like to be riding in an ambulance to the hospital and the people in the ambulance are not able to talk to the doctor who is trying to save you life because of interference. Wait till it effects you. Your are the type of person who would scream the loudest if your little hobby was interfered with. Ask the people in the south who were helped by ham radio operators during times of disaster. Ever hear of Hurricane Katrina.
  • Bury this dead horse

    Just about every BPL prototype installation tried in the United States and overseas has radiated signals strong enough to interfere with licensed radio services. And guess what, political cronyism twixt the administration's current batch of FCC policymaking incompetents and BPL providers/power companies is driving the "need" to install BPL. It sure isn't technical merit. To radiate a signal, a radio/TV station puts up an antenna composed of an open wire. To send a BPL signal to a client a BPL provider uses open wires - electrical transmission wires. Antenna radiation principles are not suspended just because BPL carries broadband data. Sure, the broadband data makes it to the customer and on its way a nice chunk of the signal is emitted into the ether further polluting limited radio frequencies. Analogy: take off automotive pollution controls to drive up mileage figures and make cars cheaper. If only the public could visualize radio spectrum pollution.
  • Bad idea

    This axes out any emergency communication (HAM radio for emergency use) as well
    as AM radio as it stands. It was tried in the UK and they dumped it.

    Colin Powell's son took the lead of the FCC without the knowledge necessary to
    understand how bad an idea this is..
    • Well...

      Colin Powell's son, Michael, hasn't been the chairman of the FCC for several years now. While he may have been ignorant of the problems of BPL (as he was certainly ignorant enough of other communications matters), you can't really blame him for the FCC's current ignorant attitude.<p><p>

      But anyway, what can anyone expect of an FCC which is composed of political hack lawyers, and no one who actually knows anything about any of the technologies they regulate? I mean, the chairman looks like Doogie Howser! I wonder if his mommy takes him to work every day?<p><p>

      And as to the ignoramus who called hams "ancient"--it's not just the ham bands that suffer interference, Einstein. It's public safety, transportation, the military, little things like that. Those things take precedence over your being able to websurf a little faster. Sorry. Figure out what the word "broadband" means--that means that BPL interferes with very *broad* segments of radio spectrum--not just the relatively small slices that hams use.

      BPL should be DOA.
  • Broadband over Power Lines Bad

    Broad Band over Power Lines is one of the worst mistakes the internet community could makes. BPL will increase the amount of radio interference that presently exists. As a licensed amateur radio operator I am not ready to give up the narrow radio spectrum I enjoy to BPL. Our group is not the only ones that will be effected by the radio interference that will be generated by BPL. Any one who listens to AM radio will loose that ability due to interference. The power companies have enough trouble keeping the interference levels down. Ever notice the noise on the AM radio when you drive under power lines or when you drive by a arcing power line. BPL will destroy AM radio. For those who never listen to AM radio, don't think your FM or Satellite Radio is safe.
  • BPL is worthless and causes interferrance

    BPL is a worthless medium and causes a great deal of interferrance to amateur radio operations wherever it is being used. The American Raadio Relay Lewague is fighting it with everything they have. I wish them all the luck as hams need to be heard in disasters and BPL will prevent decent communications when they are most needed...
  • HomePlug and Amateur Radio

    DirectTV has partnered with Current Technologies. Current is the company that has deployed BPL past about 60,000 homes in Cincinnati, OH and is in the process of building out a deployment in the greater Dallas area that is expected to pass 2,000,000 homes when it is complete. These deployments, however, have proceeded without major interference problems. Current has been an early leader in carefully choosing its design to avoid interference to Amateur Radio. They don't operate below 30 MHz on overhead lines at all, but instead use 32-48 MHz. On 240/120 volt premise wiring, they use HomePlug technology, which notches the ham bands. <> To date, ARRL has no interference reports involving Current or HomePlug equipment. Ed Hare, W1RFI, ARRL Laboratory Manager,
  • High Voltage Troubleshooter Opinion

    I've worked on power lines for 35 years and the idea is crazy. The connections are bad 5 to 15 % of the time. There is a greater chance of Lighting damage. The system is not designed for it and the cost of upgrading it is not practical.
  • BPL - Secrets You're Not Told About - A Disaster Waiting to Happen!

    BPL, PLC or PLT--or whatever you'd like to call it, is a truly rotten idea thought up by those with the lowest of low motives. Only those with evil intent would dream up a scheme that makes Galloping Gertie--the collapsed Tacoma Narrows Bridge--look like gleaming Rolls Royce engineering with extra belts and braces.

    Everyone but the FCC (except on bad days when their consciences bothers them) knows that BPL causes significant and often severe interference to radio communications services but what is less well known--in fact what is being kept secret--is that BPL is by far the most vulnerable and unreliable of broadband communications services.

    As BPL suffers from substantial intrinsic vulnerabilities, would you want (or subscribe) to an Internet service that is delivered by an unreliable Heath Robinson / Rube Goldberg-type debacle of a system? Hardly Likely, and here's why:

    1. BPL is unacceptably susceptible to interference from external radio and other electromagnetic signals, legitimate or otherwise.

    2. BPL is easily jammed or interfered with by criminals, hackers or terrorists using only a few dollars worth of electronic components from Tandy etc.

    3. BPL possesses an amazing DUAL characteristic or feature whereby every mains supply power outlet anywhere on the power distribution network is (a) ideally suited as an ingress or injection point for interference jamming whilst (b) it is simultaneously capable of providing the power source for the jamming device. Simply plug your jammer into any power point and incoming power is converted into electromagnetic (EMR / RFI) interference which then overwhelms the tiny BPL signals that travel along the same power lines. In fact, it would be almost impossible to design a distribution system that is more easily interfered with than the power network used by BPL for distribution. What a brilliant idea for hackers, criminals and terrorists. WOW, just what they need!

    4. As BPL signals travel the power grid along with mains power, not only is every power outlet a potential way of knocking out the BPL network but also so are the actual power lines themselves, these act as huge antennas that can pick up both unintended and deliberate interference. Any interference signal induced into power lines that exceeds the tiny protection threshold offered by a BPL signal will render the BPL service utterly useless.

    5. Interference is usually very unpredictable. When tested, a BPL network might even pass with flying colors [unlikely] but then completely fail soon afterwards when interference hits, and sooner or later it will.

    6. Not only are BPL systems unreliable but also they have considerable limitations in bandwidth when compared to networks specifically designed for communications (rather than power distribution). BPL only appears as a viable alternative (to that of installing dedicated communications networks) because power companies already have rights of way for power; hence, kluging on a BPL service initially seems to make sense. A much better solution is to install safe, non-conducting optical fiber which parallels the power network. Whilst initially more expensive than BPL, it is still much cheaper than installing a completely separate communications network which requires different rights of way.

    7. In such an uncertain communications environment as BPL provides, it would almost be criminal to introduce VoIP telephone services including 911 emergency calls let alone depend on them. (A fact that the brain-dead FCC cronies (and their equivalents in other countries) seemed to have overlooked. Moreover, these regulators could be found culpable come any future disaster where, at inception, it was easily predicted that emergency communications would likely fail if transmitted via unreliable and unpredictable BPL systems.)

    Even if you don't care a damn about the world's radio communications network or keeping the electromagnetic spectrum green and pollution free then at least consider your own safety. Give BPL the flick and tell the politicians and regulators that they'll be ultimately held accountable if the BPL fiasco ever gets a stranglehold.

    Remember, BPL is not engineering, rather it's a diaster waiting to happen.


    Note: BPL--Broadband over Power Lines, PLT--Power Line Telecommunications, PLC--Power Line Communications (they're all the same).
  • Odd set of claims!

    I recently moved form a rural community that had BPL-type service. It happens to only serve around 35,000 customers. We only had one local TV station, 4 local radio stations (2 am, 2 fm) and 2 TV stations 72 miles from where I lived. Prior to getting the BPL-type service, I suffered greatly from interference. Interference created by 3 HAM operators within 2 miles of my home. After the installation I still suffered interference from these guys AND gained 2 more TV channels from 110 miles away.

    Another thought that enter my head, Isn't there a phase out of current television and radio broadcast frequencies? If BPL is operating above HAM channels and far below current TV/radio channels and still even farther below future broadcast frequencies, how will BPL affect them? I can't prove anything, but the rhetoric being preached here sound like industry hubb-bubb for fear of competition.
    • you don't know what you're talking about

      Your getting better TV reception because of BPL isn't because BPL is a miracle. Presumably, you got extra RF filtering as a part of your BPL installation of the sort you could have purchased at Radio Shack without BPL if you had a clue.

      The great majority of posters [b]do[/b] want another broadband option. [b]One that's consistent with public safety.[/b] Broadband Power means RF broadband interference, and it's intrinic to the technology; the laws of Nature don't change for corporate convenience.

      If your 911 call can't get through to the policeman driving through your neighborhood because of BPL-caused RF interference, perhaps your feeling about being able to watch MySpace download at megabits per second from someone other than cable or telco might change.

      Though if you didn't survive whatever reason your 911 call didn't get responded to until it was way too late, I'd call it a Darwin.

      There are other alternatives to cable and telco for broadband.
      • you shouldn't flame..

        how do i k=not know what I am talking about? You assumed I meant that the BPL made the signal better... My point was that it didn't diminish the siganl anymore than what I already had.

        Oddly enough though, when wildfires were raging through the canyons I lived in, with 14 people with in a 3 mile area having BPL, all of the fire crews ( of over 1400 men and women) were able to maintain radio communications for 8 days without any more problems than line of sight, because of the mountain terrain.

        So I reccomdend everyone try living with the issues before they spend time slamming them. Sometimes a theory is just that. In theory a light bulb shouldn't have ever worked, but it does.