Broadband Over Powerline (BPL) Stumbles
FCC gets a wrist slap, industry's largest deployment sold...
While the FCC once called broadband over power lines (BPL) the "great broadband hope," the technology has been stuck in neutral, thanks largely to its tendency to interfere with local wireless transmissions, and the fact that many utilities don't want to get into the broadband business. Things have only gotten worse for the struggling sector the last two weeks.
Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit released a decision
(pdf) showing the FCC may have been over-enthusiastic in their recommendation of the technology as a broadband-industry cure-all. Eager to bring something vaguely representing competition to a duopoly market they created, the FCC rushed through rules at the behest of BPL vendors -- seemingly ignoring interference data
for the industry's benefit.
While the FCC had their wrist slapped for ignoring proper protocols and procedures, they did win on one point: the court maintained their right to allow unlicensed devices to interfere with licensed spectrum. As existing laws are written, if a BPL deployment interferes with local emergency service communications, the impacted party has little recourse. So while hams won a battle, the FCC still left a mess in its wake.
This week finds the industry's flagship BPL deployment in Dallas, supported by DirecTV and frequently cited as an example of the technology's successes, being sold to the local utility. The network, through which DirecTV and Current Communications hoped to offer BPL service to 2 million residents, will now simply be used for smart-electrical grid monitoring. From the Dallas Morning News
DirecTV has used Current's network to sell broadband over power lines to customers in the first 64,000 homes to be wired for the service. The plan had been to expand the DirecTV service area – and increase the number of BPL retailers – as Current attached networking equipment to more power transformers and expanded the smart grid across the region.
You can't say we didn't warn you
. BPL is a niche solution with problems, not a third major competitive pipe.
Re: who'd a guessed?
said by nasadude:Yes the broadband business case for BPL has always been questionable. But the free-market ideologues at the FCC have needed it to counter requirements that Congress put in the 1996 Telecom Act. According to the Act, if the FCC were to determine that broadband deployment and competition was not happening in a timely manner, the FCC is required to "take drastic action". And drastic action by the grovernment is not something the market-forces-solve-all-problems, market-failure-never-happens-anymore ideologues in the FCC want to do.
we've known for quite a while BPL has been a feeble attempt at broadband, mainly pushed by the FCC to show there is "competition".
Re: who'd a guessed? ARRL has worked cooperatively and productively with most of the unlicensed noise sources. The premise that it is against all Part 15 devices is inaccurate and not at all supported by the evidence at hand.
There is no doubt that locally, if Part 15 devices emit at the level of the Part 15 rules, local interference will result. To avoid interference, it is essential that any Part 15 device avoid the use of spectrum that is in operation near it. Unlicensed devices should not use spectrum that is in common use in residential neighborhood. This includes Amateur Radio, but it also includes broadcast television, cellular telephones and a number of other spectrum in which unlicensed devices should not have significant emissions. I would imagine that all who use cell phones would take the position that unlicensed devices should not use "their" band.
ARRL has taken the position that unlicensed devices should not intentionally generate signals at the FCC limits in the licensed Amateur bands. Part 15 rules control interference two ways: the rules set emissions limits that limit the geographical area over which interference is likely. The rules also require that if harmful interference occurs, the operator of the device must correct the interference.
ARRL's position has been that rules and levels should be sufficient to reduce the number of interference to a small-enough number of occurences that it is practical to address inteference that does happen on a case-by-case basis. See »www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=ar···basis%22.
That doesn't look like ARRL being opposed to all BPL to me. ARRL has also not sougth to change the rules for devices with a more reasonable interference potential than BPL. Many unlicensed devices, such as the computer I am using to type this message, generate radio noise. These devices have an interference footprint only near the premise in which they are installed. They are not on all the time. They do not emit on all frequencies. Although they occasionally do make noise in the Amateur bands, most do not cause harmful interference, and the few that do can be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
Contrast that to a device that operates on overhead power lines, with an interference footprint for long distances along that line, with a spectrum occupancy that is not just found on a few spot frequencies, but that fully fills large swaths of spectrum, operates continuously and may be built as big as an entire state. The premise that ARRL's using this as the worst example of why Part 15 should not regulate devices that have a significant potential for interference proves that ARRL is opposed to all Part 15 devices is ridiculous.
ARRL has worked with the BPL industry. It worked with HomePlug on in-premise BPL before access BPL was even a dream. Http://p1k.arrl.org/~ehare/bpl/HomePlug_ARRL.pdf. It worked with Motorola on BPL that was well designed to not cause interference to Amateur Radio. ARRL staff have presented at industry events and told the participants that with millions of HomePlug devices deployed, ARRL has no reports of interference to Amateur Radio involving HomePlug device. It worked with Current Technologies, with ARRL staff being quoted in ARRL and lay publications as saying that Current systems have deployed without major interference problems.
ARRL worked directly with DS2, a BPL chipset manufacturer, to help test its improvements to notching technology. ARRL staff have reported that in carefully installed systems, the notching was effective in addressing interference.
ARRL has worked with the Home Phone Networking Alliance and the VDSL industries to help it plan industry specifications that have been successful at preventing major interference problems. ARRL maintains contact with many industries to help prevent interference problems. It occupies seats on major IEEE and ANSI-accredited EMC standards committees, sometimes in positions of elected leadership.
Those that claim that ARRL is opposed to all unlicensed operation have simply not done enough research into what ARRL has done to work effectively, cooperatively and productively with the unlicensed emitter industry.
These models work. Avoiding locally used spectrum with sufficient filtering can and does avoid EMC problems. Good rules and industry standards are needed to reflect these successful models. The FCC did not do this industry any favors by giving it a poor set of rules. A good set of rules, such as was given to cable TV, will help this industry find its success.
I once asked on of the Board of Directors of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers what success the cable industry would have had if the FCC had given it a set of rules as poor as the BPL rules. He replied that they would have 12 analog channels and they wouldn't work that well. He had just given a presentation on what the cable industry had to do to improve the cable system to make it sheilded well enough and noise-free enough to let it reliably carry broadband.
Ed Hare, W1RFI@arrl.org
225 Main St
Newington, CT 06111
Here we go again Look, guys. BPL ain't ever gonna happen. This just another adventure in the silly "wireless cable" type chase of venture capital.
It is an unnatural physical relationship to begin with, and well, power companies aren't suited to it, and the equipment will self-destruct.
We don't need it as a last-mile alternative. We just need copper to be regulated as its own entity apart from the iLECs.
Re: which one first? i don't know, but my guess would be hydrogen cars...
one thing that hydrogen cars has going for it is that the well established equivalent (gas cars) is that the supply of gas will probably force hydrogen cars to be cheaper, thus an economic incentive. when looking at BPL vs well established equivalent (cable, dsl, fiber in places, and rarer wifi or wimax), i don't see what BPL has going for it. there are interference issues, lesser theoretical capacity compared to fiber, coax, and possibly twisted pair phoneline, what BPL will be competing against is already well established for the most part (dsl and cable and soon (wishful thinking) to be fiber). i'd say BPL is at best an interm solution for locations very rural areas.