Feeds

EU standardises hamtagonistic powerline network tech

Bearded brotherhood pledges eternal vigilance

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The second vote on EN50561-1, the EU standard for running Ethernet over mains circuits, has passed, putting the standard on the books, much to the annoyance of the UK amateur radio operator community.

EN50561-1 requires that all Powerline Telecommunication (PLT) kit, which carries networking signals over the mains electrical wires, must avoid the amateur radio frequencies; switch off when not in use; and keep transmission power to a minimum. All powerline networking kit sold in Europe will have to conform to it within the next three years, though it clearly doesn't go far enough for some.

UK hams, in the body of the Radio Society of Great Britain, have long opposed the standard, arguing that existing requirements that no device generate undue radio interference should be applied to PLT devices, which would make the vast majority of those in use today illegal.

Appeals to Ofcom and Trading Standards failed to get any traction, with Trading Standards deferring to Ofcom while the radio regulator pointed out that it has no power to govern devices that were not designed to emit radio signals. PLT kit is supposed to only send signals over mains wires, but as such wires are unshielded it inevitably leaks out. Ofcom did extend its remit for the Olympics, giving itself permission to shut down any radio transmission regardless of source, but that right ended with the closing ceremony.

Those backing the new standard argued that while imperfect it was better than nothing, and that it could always be tightened up later if problems emerge, not to mention that with powerline kit so widely deployed it was too late to rant from the sidelines.

Having failed to get existing standards applied, and failed to generate enough support to prevent the vote going through, the RSGB has conceded that EN50561-1 is here to stay and is now focusing its efforts on gathering information about interference with a view to tightening up the standard.

Part of the problem with PLT interference is that no one knows how widespread it is. Existing systems generate interference which pushes up into the AM/FM and even DAB radio bands, and with harmonics could extend down into the ADSL+ frequencies. The latter are only used over phone lines, but as such lines often run alongside mains cables there is potential for interference there too.

The problem is that when AM radio drops out, most of us just move the radio or fiddle with the antenna, whilst a slow internet connection will be blamed on sub-standard copper or just distance from the exchange, before one starts to suspect the PLT device. Ofcom reports only a handful of complaints, and all from radio hams, but as the regulator no longer fields complaints about radio reception (they go to the BBC these days) that's hardly surprising.

Having a standard is obviously a good thing, and PLT kit now has one, but only the amateur radio operators will notice if the kit we buy is conforming to that standard - so we should be grateful that they plan to check. Otherwise we'll miss the interference from our PLT devices entirely and just blame the rest of our devices for failing to live up to our expectations. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?
Speedy network claims only apply to 10% of customers
YOU are the threat: True confessions of real-life sysadmins
Who will save the systems from the men and women who save the systems from you?
Virgin Media struck dumb by NATIONWIDE packet loss balls-up
Turning it off and on again fixes glitch 12 HOURS LATER
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.