Power Line Broadband Expands - InformationWeek

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5/19/2006
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Power Line Broadband Expands

Broadband Internet access from AC adapter-sized plugs connected directly into home electric outlets could become a new service option over the next year. With $130 million in equity financing, Current Communications plans to introduce broadband service over power lines in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Broadband over power line, or BPL, networks promise 10-Mbps symmetrical Internet access as well as a variety of "smart grid" electric services. "This is the world's largest-ever broadband over power line initiative," says Jim Dondero, VP of marketing for Current. "Just taking broadband communications from two competitive technologies, DSL and cable, to three is disruptive from a competitive standpoint."

The concept isn't new, but Current's plans, along with a similar project it began in Ohio last year, mark the first large-scale deployments. BPL lets utilities offer broadband at rates less than DSL and cable, Current says, and it allows for services such as automated meter reading, power quality management, and outage detection.

Current puts its digital equipment on electric distribution networks, letting utilities monitor and control network components in real time, improving reliability, efficiency, and security.

For end users, the use of BPL will enable true plug-and-play Internet capabilities direct from any power outlet in a home, Dondero says. In addition, the network will be able to deliver services such as interactive gaming and, soon, voice-over-IP communications services. BPL's major drawback: It's an unproven technology with little performance history to look back on.

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