Feeds

Broadband over power turns on both sides of the Atlantic

Alternative currents

Boost IT visibility and business value

Sending broadband signals over electricity cable has always confused people.

The Home Plug Alliance, began life offering a way of sending broadband signals around a home, and then started working on ways to bring broadband to the home with a related technology, while the Universal Powerline Association sort of did the opposite, developing strategies and components that could transmit 200 Mbps broadband signals in the low and mid voltage segments of power networks, but just as easily sending those signals around a home with the same or similar components.

Both HomePlug and UPA rely on a basic OFDM layer in the 30 MHz of so of spectrum available on a power line, but offer different higher level protocols, such as IEEE 802.3 Ethernet on Homeplug.

The reason for the two widely varying strategies are that HomePlug hails from the US, where power is very different, and UPA comes from Europe, and is championed by Spanish chip maker DS2. In the US there are only around 10 homes per low voltage segment, while in Europe it can be as high as a few hundred homes, so the technologies which work well in one continent have to be adapted for the other.

Despite DS2 getting to 200 Mbps around two years ahead of HomePlug, it has had real problems getting a genuine telco major to commit, until this week when British Telecom's IPTV start up BT Vision came out in favor of the self install capabilities of DS2 based devices for pushing video signals around UK homes.

Richard Griffiths, Director of Technology, Strategy & Development for BT Retail and BT Vision, commented: "BT chose DS2 because it delivers a simple to install and very reliable networking technology. We anticipate a big demand for the service and we're delighted to be working with DS2."

BT said that it rigorously tested all networking technologies and found DS2 chips deliver excellent IPTV viewing capabilities. UPA technology is likely to be used to connect the BT supplied DVR to other rooms for multiple TV support, and the customer base is likely to be measured in tens of thousands.

But it is HomePlug technology behind the deal announced this week between Current Group and DirecTV to rely on broadband to the home using Current's existing networks. The problem in gaining US power companies' co-operation for projects like this is legendary, and the smart money has always gone to companies, like Current, which aim first and foremost to offer applications over the power cable for the Power companies themselves like power outage alerts and automated meter reading and it is through facilitating this that Current has built up relationships with Duke Energy, in and around Cincinnati, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky and Oncor in Dallas and elsewhere in Texas and today can reach 1.8 million homes, and with these two organizations might one day double that number.

The deal allows DirecTV to offer customers high-speed Internet service and VoIP services from the end of 2007 but it will never replace the deal that DirecTV has with Clearwire, and by association with Sprint, which will reach hundreds of millions in the next few years with its WiMAX network. So this is mostly about WiMAX being the first option, and Broadband over PowerLine being the fall back option in some rural states. DirecTV customers will be able to access the Internet by plugging a BPL modem into virtually any outlet in their home, at speed up to 3 Mbps.

Back in May Current Communications took onboard $130m in equity investments, with investors including GE, EarthLink and existing investors Duke Energy, Google and Liberty Media. So it's no surprise that Liberty, which will shortly own DirecTV, has thrown Current this bone for being part and parcel of the wider DirecTV plan.

Copyright © 2007, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Docker kicks KVM's butt in IBM tests
Big Blue finds containers are speedy, but may not have much room to improve
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Object storage bods Exablox: RAID is dead, baby. RAID is dead
Bring your own disks to its object appliances
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.