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Tasmania powers up 12Mbps broadband

Internet service provider Datafast, in partnership with Aurora Energy and hardware vendor Mitsubishi Electric, today kicked off a 12Mbps broadband over power line service in Hobart, which the company claims is the world's first large-scale commercial trial.Many large electricity suppliers around the globe have been experimenting with broadband over power line (BPL) technology for a number of years in an effort to compete with cable and telephone companies in providing high-speed Internet access.

Internet service provider Datafast, in partnership with Aurora Energy and hardware vendor Mitsubishi Electric, today kicked off a 12Mbps broadband over power line service in Hobart, which the company claims is the world's first large-scale commercial trial.

Many large electricity suppliers around the globe have been experimenting with broadband over power line (BPL) technology for a number of years in an effort to compete with cable and telephone companies in providing high-speed Internet access. However, technical limitations and interference problems have held BPL back from reaching the mainstream.

Datafast's chief executive Simon Ehrenfeld pointed out the trial is with real customers and stressed that the technology is finally ready for the mass market.

"This is not a technical trial -- the technology works. This is the first stage of a commercial roll out," said Ehrenfeld.

According to Ehrenfeld, the BPL service will be capable of providing an Internet connection for homes and businesses that is "vastly quicker" than the 24Mbps maximum possible with ADSL2+ technology, which uses analogue telephone lines. Such speeds are so far only being offered by only a couple of ISPs, with several more offering speeds up to 12Mbps.

However, for the trial period, BPL reseller TasTel is initially offering 256Kbps, 1Mbps and 4Mbps packages at AU$14.95, $29.95 and $79.95 per month respectively. Each plan includes a download allocation, with extra data charges priced at 10c/Mb. There is also a synchronous 1Mbps package targeted at customers wishing to host their own Web sites for AU$39.95 per month.

Tastel is the result of a partnership between Aurora, AAPT and renewable energy business Hydro Tasmania.

Piero Peroni, business development manager at Aurora Energy, told ZDNet Australia&nbsp that the service will get faster and at this stage if a customer wants to connect at a higher speed, they should contact TasTel directly.

"It is very, very high speed but this is a very early iteration. This technology will only get faster and faster," said Peroni.

The trial is expected to last for nine months and will initially only provide services to homes and businesses in the Hobart area. Aurora Energy hopes to eventually deploy BPL to all 250,000 customers on its Tasmanian electricity grid.

All participants of the trial will receive broadband Internet, as well as integrated Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services from local vendor engin, but a limited number will also be testing a video on demand service from an as-yet unnamed partner.

"engin and Mitsubishi Electric engineers have worked closely together in both Australia and Japan to incorporate engin's VoIP technology in the 200Mbps BPL product developed by Mitsubishi," said a statement from the VoIP vendor on the trial.

BPL technology is being scrutinised and supported by most of the IT heavyweights including Motorola, Cisco, Intel and even Google.