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Topic Title: What happened to powerline broadband access
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Created On: 16 October 2013 09:30 PM
Status: Read Only
Related E&T article: Whatever happened to Broadband over Power Line?
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 16 October 2013 09:30 PM
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I'm surprised there's no mention in the article of SSE Telecom's reported attempts at a "full commercial rollout" of powerline broadband ten years or so ago.

A pair of 2003 interviews with SSE's powerline spokesperson, Dr Keith Maclean, can still be found at ISPreview:

Dr Maclean was at the time also the chairman of the PLC Forum's Commercial and Marketing Working Group.

The IET article says "it was generally up to individual power companies to decide how they implemented their transmission facilities, leaving the possibility of problematic interconnection. "

Where's the problem? The same electricity company supplies the equipment at the customer end (house/office/etc) and the other end (in the substation). No need for any multivendor interoperability, never mind the kind of coexistence on the same wires that xDSL manages to provide. One company (the now defunct DS2) also made most of the PLC chips too, which presumably should have helped compatibility.

Far more significant in the demise of PLC as a means of broadband access were two factors not really addressed in the article: the practical and economic issues.

First, how do the power companies affordably get sufficient high speed data between the substation and the ISP's core network(s)? If the power company can use mass market DSL for it, so can its nearby potential customers. If it can't use DSL, bandwidth costs go through the roof.

And second, how do they keep their cost per connect (involving a site visit for equipment installation on mains wiring?), and their maintenance costs, competitive against user-installable (and sometimes user-replaceable) xDSL?

Lovely idea on paper. Never had a chance of success in the real world.

"high levels of <b>radioactivity</b> in the near vicinity of access BPL lines have the opposite effect of slowing or interrupting data transmission within the power infrastructure"

Who writes this stuff? I thought this was supposed to be a magazine for engineers and technologists. Have I confused it with T3 or PC Advisor?
 17 October 2013 08:44 AM
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I suspect that "radioactivity" is a proof reading error. Replacing it with "radio activity" makes more sense.

S P Barker BSc PhD IEng MIET
 21 October 2013 11:51 AM
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Also missing from the article is the glaring issue of non-compliance with the 'essential requirements' of the EMC Directive (2004/108/EC) and a complete failure to meet or pass EN55022 (for in-house PLT). FprEN50561-1 is an attempt by pro-PLT Working Group 11 at CENELEC to rail-road their rubbish "technology" on to an unsuspecting public whilst systematically annihilating the radio spectrum for legal, internationally defined users. WG11's Acting Secretary, Jean-Luc Detrez, recently publishing pro-PLT propaganda in favour of their "standard". Hardly un-biased, and surely unethical for a standards-setting organisation?!

Their ideas of notching do not work and dynamic power control is a patent-protected dream. In real-world situations, the bridge rectifiers found in switched mode power supplies simply act as RF mixers mixing up [the OFDM signals] and filling in any notches that were left for legal radio transmissions. The simple fact that these devices require notches suggests they are not fit-for-purpose and they should not be on the market. In fact, any electronic device that fails to meet the 'essential requirements' (a legal requirement) of the EMC Directive does not have a valid CE mark, and is therefore illegal to sell on the EU market. Sadly, the interests of big-business outweigh those of the public. The very Market Surveillance Authorities who are supposed to be acting upon this kind of rogue business (Ofcom and BIS in the UK) have been shown to be complicit by failing to enforce the law, and hiding details of tests they commissioned when it did not meet their prescribed agenda. Ofcom's assertion that there have been a low number of complaints regarding PLT is down to the way they record interference issues, how they refuse to deal with complaints from Citizens' Band users, and how they have farmed out broadcast complaints to the BBC - who cannot act in the case of non-EMC-compliance.

BPL and PLT are ideas that should be buried and forgotten about. The radio spectrum is a precious natural resource, and they are not making any more of it. It deserves the utmost protection from any and all junk electronics that seek to damage it.

You can read more about the mess of PLT and other interference issues caused by non-compliant electronic junk at If you think you are safe, think again. PLT has been pushing at the door of VHF radio; and LED lighting is now doing its part in breaking the EMC Directive. Engineers world-wide should be more aware of the issues of EMC and seek to enforce change in those who would make a quick "buck" at the expense of our profession and integrity.
 24 October 2013 08:35 AM
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I was also somewhat underwhelmed with this article, and even more when I read "high voltage cables transmitting hundreds of kilovolts ...... do not vibrate at a consistent frequency...". Yes, who writes this nonsense. Another error is that Don Beattie is not director of the RSGB, he was Acting General Manager until April this year but now not on the board, though on their EMC committee.

The biggest issue of this article is that it is clearly written by somebody who is not familiar with the technology. The term BPL is used exclusively in the USA, in Europe it is always PLT or PLC. It failed for two reasons - firstly by the growth of ADSL and now fibre which removed its potential market overnight. Secondly because of the EMC issues, that were never successfully sorted out in the USA, and are still an issue on in-house PLT. In-house PLT does seem to have had a measure of success despite this, although the draft standard has still not been formally approved despite suggestions it has and the devices currently in use still fail the essential requirements of the EMC standards.

And low frequency powerline for power control is a completely different issue, established technology that works and does not have the same EMC problems.


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