Broadband over strength Lines

Hi-Speed Internet Access by Your strength Plug!

It’s called BPL and it’s being tested right now. Is it coming soon to a strength plug near you?

Imagine this:

You plug your BPL modem into any strength socket in your home and you’re immediately connected to a high speed broadband ISP. Sound too good to be true?

Maybe… maybe not.

BPL does seem to have more than its proportion of pros and cons.

The Pros

Aside from the fact that nearly every home in the country is connected to the strength grid, this exciting new technology offers several other advantages over current broadband Internet service connections.

First is the fact that no specialized installation or additional wiring would be needed in your home. True ‘plug-and-play’ technology.

Another interesting aspect of BPL is that every electric device is connected to the electric dispensing network. That method that BPL could let chips in every electric device talk to each other. Much simpler and more cost effective than putting a wireless chip in every appliance.

Imagine the possibilities if your alarm clock, light switch, water heater and coffee maker could talk each other! Or how about this scenario: You unpack and plug in your brand new flat-panel TV and it automatically connects to the cable box, DVD player, your Home Theater system and the Internet.

already more than the communications aspect, electric utilities are interested in BPL because it could give them an intelligent electric grid that is both more obtain and more reliable. That in turn could rule to less pollution and lower electric strength costs.

The Cons

The above-ground utility wires that carry BPL signals can also act as antennas and cause radio frequency interference with airplane radios, emergency, military and police radios, HAM radios and short-wave broadcasts. This possible interference is central to the argue over whether or not the FCC should allow BPL to exist.

How Broadband Over strength Lines Works

There are two different technologies under development: Access BPL and In-house BPL.

Access BPL

Access BPL combines the technological principles of radio, wireless networking, and modems. It uses medium voltage strength lines carrying about 7,200 volts (the ones that you see at the top of electric utility poles) to carry broadband Internet traffic. It can send data over strength lines and into homes at speeds between 500 kilobits and 3 megabits per second which is currently comparable to cable and DSL modem speeds.

But turning the strength grid into a stable, high-speed system of data transmission is tricky.

Those medium voltage strength lines lines are just one part of a strength grid. In addition there are generators, high voltage lines, substations and transformers that help carry electricity from the strength plant all the way to your plug. And all of them interfere with data transmission.

So first BPL bypasses high-voltage strength lines using either fiber-optic or telephone lines to inject the data into the medium-voltage strength grid downstream. However the data can only travel so far before it begins to degrade. So special devices (called repeaters) are installed on the lines to take in the data and amplify it for the next leg of the journey.

There is also no way to run a clean data signal by a transformer. To conquer this, one BPL form uses two other devices, a coupler and a bridge to spread Internet traffic. These are attached at the strength pole and allow the data to bypass the transformer and go into the low voltage lines attached to your home. There are also wireless systems that bypass the low voltage lines altogether.

From there Access BPL uses a special modem that is about the size of a shared AC adapter. It simply plugs into a 110 volt wall socket and has an Ethernet cable that connects to your computer (wireless versions are also obtainable). BPL modems use silicon chips specifically designed to send signals over medium voltage strength lines and separate data from 110 volt electric current. These are obtainable right now and several electric utility companies in over 26 states are quietly doing pilot programs.

In-house BPL

In-house BPL networks machines within your home or office. In-house BPL products can easily comply with the radiated emissions limits listed in Part 15 of the FCC’s Rules, because they connect directly with the low voltage electric lines inside your home or office. This technology has little to do with truly connecting to the Internet and is obtainable in stores right now.

Is BPL coming to your neighborhood soon?

Bottom line… Don’t count on it! at the minimum not soon. The radio interference issue is serious enough that at the minimum one utility company was forced to terminate its pilot program prematurely.

Is the idea going to die? Don’t count on that either. The concept has enough merits and profit possible that BPL developers and investors alike refuse to give up. And that attitude will most likely persist until the FCC finally says “no way”.

Leave a Reply