Articles are listed ordered by date of the newsletter they appeared in—newest to oldest.
UPLC Conference: Powerline Communications In the "Lone-Star" State (BBHR 10/19/2007)
The focus at this year's UPLC was more on utility applications than broadband services. Utilities are facing an aging workforce, increasing energy demand and the pressure of green initiatives. Communications networks are key to addressing these problems and "home area networks" are likely to play a role for energy control and demand response. What will this mean for BPL?
Major mishaps for utilities may be good news for BPL vendors. With electricity demand and costs rising, and regulators under pressure for why outages aren't quickly pinpointed and fixed, the focus at BPL conferences has shifted from consumer broadband to internal utility applications. Both capabilities need the same basic infrastructure and keeping the lights on may be an easier sell to the regulators than pursuing a new business.
We had always been skeptical that BPL could be used to provide broadband service in rural areas, since the deployment costs seemed very high when the population density is low. Conversations with two innovative companies, and a visit to rural Virginia, convinced us that there's hope for people in unserved and underserved markets.
Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations you might have missed. This month we feature some market statistics, muni Wi-Fi, BPL and a perspective on projecting the future.
Most people visit CES to look at the cool new toys. We spent much of our time talking with more than a dozen semiconductor companies--looking at chips for powerline networking, ultra wideband (UWB) and the next generation of Wi-Fi based on MIMO. The chips may not make you deliriously happy, but the products they power have the potential to excite consumers.
Standards play a large role in the success of new technologies, and we heard a lot about new standards at CES. Some companies are bringing products to market ahead of standards, and many other companies are upset with them. This got us thinking about the proper timing for standards.
What happens when a market need is there, but standards have not caught up? For some silicon vendors in the powerline communications networking arena, the pragmatic answer is to supply your solution if you think it's a good one. Then you can adapt to the standards once they are in place and responsive. We heard more about this from the CEO of DS2, which has announced their 200Mbps chip without waiting for HomePlug AV.
We love the concept and evidently those in Europe do too--we're talking about HomePlug. Simply plug a product into a HomePlug-equipped electrical outlet and it is networked. In a series of interviews we explored the progress on raising speeds that will be achieved over these powerline networks in the home. We also heard about how the upcoming HomePlug AV spec is being positioned as a starting point for standardizing "access BPL".
Telephone companies and cable operators in the US have exploited their connection into the home to provide broadband, but electric utilities have not. Over the past year, US focus has significantly increased on utility deployment of Broadband over Powerline (BPL) as a possible competitive "third wire". To get beneath the surface hype, we visited several BPL deployments and met with insiders from utilities, vendors and industry associations. We describe what we learned in a four-part survey.
Part 1 provides an overview of BPL, our tentative conclusions and a definition of industry jargon.
Spain Plugs Into Broadband: A Guest Article by Antonio Gomez (BBHR 11/16/2003)
Spanish electric utilities, together with the telecommunications operators in which they are stockholders, have started rolling out services based on Power Line Communications, to provide a serious alternative for broadband. The regulatory commission granted licenses to Spain's three main electric companies to offer voice and data services over their grids, and determined the companies must offer service to at least 40% of their customers prior to October, 2005. Our guest author sees PLC's role as both a competitively-priced broadband alternative and as a new driver in the digitalization of the country.
Tecnocom - Reconsidering PLC Access (Banda Ancha - Broadband in Spain) (BBHR 6/17/2003)
During our trip to Spain, we met with the incumbent and several aspiring broadband competitors. Despite differences between countries, we found many common themes across borders, including the move to "all IP," innovations in wireless and PLC technologies, and public policy to spur broadband competition. Muchas gracias to our readers in Spain for sharing their insights with us.
Power Line Communications has always held the promise of providing a third broadband wire into consumer's homes. Although it has gained some traction in Europe, the US power grid structure makes deployment more difficult. A one-day Columbia University-sponsored update on the technology and deployment status in the U.S. revealed some strengths and progress. Our bottom line is that PLC access works, but big hurdles remain to make it a major business.