Broadband over power turns on both sides of the Atlantic
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
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