Bright sparks offer broadband over power lines

Have electricity providers finally cracked the process of sending high-speed data across the electricity network?

Homes and businesses in the Winchester area can now get high-speed Internet access through their power line, thanks to a trial from Southern Electric which launched this week.

The electricity provider is letting its customers take part in commercial testing of the power line broadband technology, which if successful could play a big part in the rollout of broadband networks across the whole of the UK.

Unlike ADSL and cable broadband, Southern Electric's product is symmetrical, with customers being promised connections of up to 1Mbps both upstream and downstream.

Customers can sign up for 12 months or  a rolling 28-day contract. Residential services cost £29.99 (inc. VAT) per month, and business services cost £40 (ex. VAT). These prices could work out at good value if users do consistently get bandwidth at or close to 1Mbps.

Southern Electric's power line broadband service has previously been tested in Scotland, but Winchester is the first English city to take part in the ongoing trial.

The technology behind the service, known as Powerline Communication, has been in development for several years.

However, the process of adapting the power grid to carry high-speed data signals has been hit by technical problems in the past -- with electrical home appliances disrupting the service. There have also been issues with security, and interference from radio and TV signals.