Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet Communications IBM

IBM Bringing Powerline Broadband Back? 141

Posted by samzenpus
from the faster-tubes dept.
KindMind writes "IBM, in partnership with International Broadband Electric Communications, appears to be bringing back powerline broadband back from the dead. This time, the idea is to build out in rural areas not currently serviced by broadband, and isn't for competing with other broadband solutions. From the article: 'Their strategy is to sign up electric cooperatives that provide power to sparsely populated areas across the eastern United States. Rather than compete toe-to-toe with large, entrenched cable or DSL providers, IBEC is looking for customers that have been largely left out of the shift to high-speed Internet.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

IBM Bringing Powerline Broadband Back?

Comments Filter:
  • Elusive market. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nog_lorp (896553) * on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @07:05PM (#25740923)

    This will also capture the market on all those people who live too far from any hub to get DSL and have free/stolen cable so can't get that!

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by turkeydance (1266624)
      bottom line: nobody cares. if you are not in the USA, and you are not in the top 30 markets, no one cares about Kansas/Arkansas/etc. Obama got 52% of the popular vote but he killed the Electoral College (Media Market). it's nuttin' new. NY/LA/Houston and who cares?
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What? I'm actually talking about California. A very rich part of California. Still, even rich people don't necessarily want to shell out $60 a month for cable TV + internet when they get the TV part for free. I know a guy who lives in the Santa Cruz mountains and owns his own business who is in exactly this situation.

        As a matter of fact, just about anywhere that isn't a major metropolitan center has pretty bad DSL coverage as far as I can tell. If you aren't right downtown DSL drops out like crazy or they w

        • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

          by Khyber (864651)

          "As a matter of fact, just about anywhere that isn't a major metropolitan center has pretty bad DSL coverage as far as I can tell. If you aren't right downtown DSL drops out like crazy or they won't even connect you."

          When I lived way on the outskirts of Memphis (5 minute walk to the MS border, way away from downtown Memphis or anything,) we got rock solid 6mbit DSL. never went down.

          • by nog_lorp (896553) *

            The Mississippi border is 10 miles from the center of Memphis, and Memphis is in the top 20 US cities by population.

            • by Khyber (864651)

              I'm WAY away from Memphis, or was, nearly Collierville, which is practically country.

          • by colourmyeyes (1028804) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @11:30PM (#25742919)
            Is that some anecdotal evidence? I LOVE anecdotal evidence!
            • by Khyber (864651)

              Having worked for IXL Memphis (when they were still around,) I'm not using anecdotal evidence at all. I know what works and what doesn't work out there.

              Older buildings, even right next door to the CO, get shit service because of antiquated wiring. Any building 30 or less years of age can get DSL without any problems for the most part.

              DSL works all the way down out to Hernando (which is further away than Germantown or Collierville, in MS, and still gets very usable DSL service piped in from Memphis,) and out

        • by timbck2 (233967)

          I lived on the side of a mountain in rural southwest Virginia and got excellent DSL. Yet when I moved to Santa Fe, NM, I couldn't get it in the part of town I lived in.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by theaveng (1243528)

        I live near a city that, in terms of population, is somewhere around 110 in terms of population (Lancaster PA), and even though I'm 10 miles from the center I still have access to 6000 kbit/s DSL.

        >>>people who live too far from any hub to get DSL

        How far away can asymmetric DSL service of say, 500 kbit/s reach? Answer: According to cisco.com it's approximately 10 miles, so if you live anywhere within ten miles of the switching station you should be able to get broadband DSL. The price would proba

  • Why others failed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Reziac (43301) * on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @07:07PM (#25740965) Homepage Journal

    I don't know for sure, but it strikes me that having a big tech player like IBM behind it will make it a lot more likely to succeed. And yes, it's very much needed -- much of rural North America (I'd guess somewhat over half the total land mass outside of metro areas) has no practical broadband available, and no hope of ever being in range of cable, DSL, or even fixed wireless.

    • by nebaz (453974) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @07:19PM (#25741075)

      So then why are they in range of power? It seems like certain things only happen when they are mandated to be so, like electricity.

      • Re:Why others failed (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @07:32PM (#25741221)

        In short, power is easy to send over Very Long Distances without making it useless. High speed data is harder to send over long distances.

        High speed data over copper wire has really rotten distance limits. Gigabit Ethernet reaches only 300 feet, officially. DSL systems get unhappy after 18,000 feet and stop working at all much past 22,000 feet. That's just about 4 miles from the starting point, and not in a straight line. The wire distance includes any ups and downs or detours the poles take.

        Compare that to traditional phone service which can go 5-8 miles on a wire, or power lines that can go 10+ miles. Fiber optic can compete with that, but it's costly both for installation and the electronics at each end.

        • Re:Why others failed (Score:5, Informative)

          by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash.p10link@net> on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @08:22PM (#25741639) Homepage

          In short, power is easy to send over Very Long Distances without making it useless. High speed data is harder to send over long distances.
          ROFL

          Afaict to get power more than a kilometer or so without crippling losses or insane cable costs you have to run at voltages in the kilovolts, that means either very heavilly insulated cables or tall poles with ceramic insulators on them holding bare wires then lots of small transformers dotted arround (more in the US than europe because the US uses a lower voltage for final distribution to properties)

          Data could easilly use a similar system. You install a box that is designed to be pole or outdoor cabinet mounted that terminates a fiber run and distributes services to local houses over DSL.

          The trouble is the incumbent telcos can't be bothered doing this because there isn't much money in it and when some locals want to do it theselves they can have problems working with the telco to use the final distribution subloops

          take a look at http://www.rric.net/ [rric.net] , a lot of the detail seems to have dissapeared now but IIRC they started off using SDSL over dedicated distribution subloops, then qwest tripled the price of those so they had little choice but to move to shared distrbution subloops (requiring complete new equipment), then iirc qwest for a while took away the ability for them to provision new shared subloops forcing them back to dedicated subloops. I consider that some serious messing arround.

        • Yeah, fiber is costly now, but if it's used en masse, it'll almost certainly be cheaper, besides providing an incentive for developing new and less-expensive ways to produce and implement it. In the meantime, why not either have the government subsidize the fiber rollout, or have them threaten to cut all the subsidies they've been providing to telcos who have done nothing but halt buildout, raise prices, and meter/shape bandwidth?
      • by Reziac (43301) * on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @07:45PM (#25741341) Homepage Journal

        Electricity and basic phone lines have been in most of the American hinterland for decades -- tho there are parts of Montana that got power in my lifetime, and still lack phone service. Some parts of California still lack both. But overall, power and phone lines are reasonably ubiquitous.

        However -- being in range of DSL is not. Rural phone lines won't support it, being many miles too far from the stations (range limit: about 3 miles). Cable has even less rural penetration. Fixed wireless/highspeed cellphone access is purely line of sight, which leaves much of the mountain west right out. Satellite is pricey and to my understanding, still not wholly practical.

        Thus there are still big swaths of American where power-line access may be the most practical route; indeed, it may be the ONLY route for broadband of any sort.

        I'm less than 50 miles from Los Angeles and 15 miles from a half-million pop suburb, yet I'm in an area that can't get DSL or cable (in fact I can't get better than 26k on POTS). Two years ago fixed wireless became available here.. but if my house was 50 feet further west, I'd be out of the necessary line of sight. This situation is a great deal more common than urban/suburban folk realise.

        • by nog_lorp (896553) *

          It's not just rural areas. Suburban areas often have terrible DSL coverage. 5 miles out of a town of 55 thousand people, in a county of 250 thousand people, is beyond the "coverage limit" for DSL.

          • by Reziac (43301) *

            Very true. In fact I have friends within the Los Angeles city limits who can't get DSL at all.

            I only concentrated on rural areas in my posts because so many slashdotters think only in terms of ideal suburbs with DSL and cable to every house, and it's tough to get 'em to think outside that unless the contrast is decidedly evident. :/

            • by nog_lorp (896553) *

              Funny, I was taking the opposite approach: most people are happy to write of "those backwards rural areas". :D

            • Re:Why others failed (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Adriax (746043) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:39AM (#25743313)

              When I lived in anaheim, just a mile and a half from disneyland, we were unable to get DSL. Apartments across the street were able to get it, but we weren't.

              People can say all they want about government screwing things up when the run them, but fed/state/local govs would do a hell of a lot better getting broadband to the masses.

              • by Reziac (43301) *

                There are pockets like that all over L.A., where DSL, cable, or both are unavailable, sometimes for no visible reason!

                Have to agree with ya.. for some stuff, such as services that should be ubiquitous, gov't tends to do better than anyone else. If it would stick to just that, and stay the hell out of everything else, it would cost us far less and we'd be better off all around!

        • by Skweetis (46377)

          Electricity and basic phone lines have been in most of the American hinterland for decades -- tho there are parts of Montana that got power in my lifetime, and still lack phone service. Some parts of California still lack both. But overall, power and phone lines are reasonably ubiquitous.

          Actually, only a few percent of the country's land area is covered by electric and phone service. It just happens that almost the entire population lives within that small land area. My parents have lived in various places around the country, and neither of them have ever lived anywhere with these services. I have neither electric nor telephone service where I live, and I can't get it without paying somewhere in the high six-figure range to have the lines extended. I'm okay with that -- I have a solar p

          • by Reziac (43301) *

            You are right -- "reasonably ubiquitous" really only applies to populated areas and travel corridors, where probably 99% of the population lives. Get very far from settled and traveled areas, and public services of this sort are rare to nil... tho I've noticed that areas settled a long time ago are far more likely to have run wires to remote (unprofitable to the provider) ranches, whereas the "newer" states are less likely to do so. Might be a side effect of rural co-ops.

            As I did point out somewhere in this

            • by Skweetis (46377)

              You are right -- "reasonably ubiquitous" really only applies to populated areas and travel corridors, where probably 99% of the population lives. Get very far from settled and traveled areas, and public services of this sort are rare to nil... tho I've noticed that areas settled a long time ago are far more likely to have run wires to remote (unprofitable to the provider) ranches, whereas the "newer" states are less likely to do so. Might be a side effect of rural co-ops.

              It's possible. Another possibility is New Deal-era buildup done by the Rural Electrification Administration.

              I've lived where neither power nor phone was available, and survived the experience (this was before solar panels and cell phones, too!) much as did most of our ancestors :)

              I like it better this way. Much of that is undoubtedly habit, but I found that when I lived in a populated area, and had a television with fifty channels, a computer with a broadband connection, video games, air conditioning, and such, my stress level was higher, I didn't sleep as well, and I was generally unhappy. I became much more centered and relaxed when I gave up all of that and moved.

              I do li

              • by Reziac (43301) *

                Having lived with propane lamps and candles.. I agree with you, electric light is superior in almost every way :) OTOH, nothing beats a really good wood stove for cooking. http://www.kountrylife.com/cgi-bin/coll_pic.cgi?coll=cookstoves&picfile=ccblk.jpg&mode=All&Parameter=&SelectParameter=All&firstrec=1&lastrec=15 [kountrylife.com] I once lived in a place that had one of this model. Great stove to cook on! Baked stuff really evenly. Heated the house. :)

                I vastly prefer living out by myself too -- it

                • by Skweetis (46377)

                  Having lived with propane lamps and candles.. I agree with you, electric light is superior in almost every way :) OTOH, nothing beats a really good wood stove for cooking. http://www.kountrylife.com/cgi-bin/coll_pic.cgi?coll=cookstoves&picfile=ccblk.jpg&mode=All&Parameter=&SelectParameter=All&firstrec=1&lastrec=15 [kountrylife.com] I once lived in a place that had one of this model. Great stove to cook on! Baked stuff really evenly. Heated the house. :)

                  I have something similar, it supplies most of my cooking needs. For the rest, I built a simple fire pit outside for warmer weather -- the stove does heat the house pretty well, undesirably so in July. I do have a tile stove with a larger firebox for my primary heat, though. Nothing beats a wood stove for heat, either. And, with almost no moving parts, they're pretty low-maintenance.

                  I vastly prefer living out by myself too -- it is indeed far less stressful, not to mention less annoying. Most of what people think of as urban necessities, I do quite well without, or find some other way to manage, or would rather not be bothered with in the first place (this troglodyte doesn't have a cell phone and doesn't WANT one!)

                  Agreed, 100%.

                  • by Reziac (43301) *

                    I used to have a pit stove for summer too -- it was just a hole in the ground with four cinder blocks around it. Could cook in or atop the coals, or warm stuff in the holes in the blocks. Good place to use up the scrap and chips that aren't worth dragging into the house as kindling.

                    Coal actually heats much better than wood, as it puts out way more heat per pound AND the quality of the heat is better -- the room can be the same temperature yet it *feels* a lot warmer (longer wavelength, I think -- more penet

                    • by Skweetis (46377)

                      I used to have a pit stove for summer too -- it was just a hole in the ground with four cinder blocks around it. Could cook in or atop the coals, or warm stuff in the holes in the blocks. Good place to use up the scrap and chips that aren't worth dragging into the house as kindling.

                      That's pretty much what mine is. Well, I used rocks instead of cinder blocks, but there's little material difference.

                      Coal actually heats much better than wood, as it puts out way more heat per pound AND the quality of the heat is better -- the room can be the same temperature yet it *feels* a lot warmer (longer wavelength, I think -- more penetrating). And when it's -60 out, wood can't keep up, but coal can. And you can keep a coal fire going continuously all winter. Trouble is, coal is a lot dirtier and more bother, especially with cleaning the chimney! And then there was the year I had to drive to Wyoming and mine my own coal...!!

                      Interesting -- using coal never actually occurred to me. Though, I have a good woodlot, large enough that I never have to take anything but dead and storm-damaged trees, so using wood makes sense for me. My house isn't large, anyway -- slightly over 1,000 square feet, and with an open layout, so it isn't a challenge to heat. Even when it's -20, I'm usually wearing shorts inside, and I h

                    • by Reziac (43301) *

                      Rocks are more durable than cinder blocks, as blocks tend to crack/break from the heat. However, it's easier to wind up with a flat level cooking surface with blocks. :)

                      If your house is well-insulated and you're not in an extreme weather area, wood is doubtless fine. My trailer in Montana had HEARD of insulation but was weak on the concept (I piled snow up the walls and on the roof to help out!) and wood didn't cut it... it was okay down to zero or so, but below that it couldn't keep up. Coal kept it toasty

              • by Reziac (43301) *

                Let's try that stove link again... seems it only works when it feels like it. Direct link: http://www.kountrylife.com/cookstoves/ccblk.jpg [kountrylife.com]

                I've used others but this model was perfect in every way.

        • by compro01 (777531)

          IIRC, VDSL2 will carry for about 10 miles (assuming half-decent lines, though the level of neglect of the copper infrastructure by a lot of private telcos is utterly stunning.), though at low speeds (256k/256k or so).

          • by Reziac (43301) *

            I've observed that neglect. In fact, anyone can observe it just by following side roads thru rural California. It's a wonder that dialup works, let alone DSL!

            I'm not familiar with VDSL2; is that where the range is extended if it's a "dry" (unused) line??

            • by compro01 (777531)

              VDSL2 (Very high speed DSL 2) is simply the latest generation of DSL. It's basically an upgrade to ADSL2 using higher speeds (You can get over 100Mbps on a short (a few hundred metres) loop), though for some reason (I haven't looked into it that much) it will carry low speeds (256-512k) much further than ADSL2, which peters out at about 3 miles, whereas VDSL2 will carry the same speed signal for nearly 10.

              • by Reziac (43301) *

                Ah, okay, thanks. I looked up the Wikipedia article but didn't learn much. :)

                Given this.. I'm wondering if booster boxes along the route would extend its practical distance??

    • Re:Why others failed (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @07:22PM (#25741109)

      All of the other efforts failed because it caused interference to ham radios and to emergency broadcast channels.

      It had nothing to do with lack of backing, and large corporate backing doesn't necessarily translate to instant success.

    • Re:Why others failed (Score:4, Interesting)

      by renegadesx (977007) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @07:26PM (#25741155)
      IBM on board is indeed a big shot in the arm, however not as big a shot as say if Cisco threw its weight behind it. It would be nice to see the major network guys get into this, and not just Cisco but also NetGear, D-Link etc

      I would like to see that happen in Australia too. Telstra have had too much of a monopoly on infastructure for too long and they always leave out rural areas. Sure they have their new 3G network but they overcharge to the point people working in small towns (who dont make as much money as city folk) cant afford it.
      • by Reziac (43301) *

        Cisco is big in networking, but they're not big across the board in business the way IBM is, and that was my (admittedly vague :) point. IBM has clout in areas beyond the internet itself, and I think that's what can shift the balance here.

        As an AC says, the problem of interfering with ham radio etc. needs to be solved, but there again -- IBM, being less monofocused, is more likely to provide the needful research funding to discover a fix for that problem (if such a fix is possible).

        I don't know what's being

    • by hedwards (940851)

      The Powerline broadband stuff always sucked. I gave it a shot at my parents house and it really couldn't cope with the low quality of the wiring. And that's without any transformers in the middle.

      I can't imagine the technology being useful in the US. Perhaps in countries which have more houses per transformer and a newer grid this might be useful. But definitely not in the US.

      • by Reziac (43301) *

        Given what you say, it's probably an It Depends thing, based on the condition of the system and its various parts.

        Speaking of the two grids with which I'm familiar.. CA's in rural areas is often in rough shape, with lots of near-failing transformers; MT's is in much better condition and experiences far fewer spikes and sags. So at a guess, it would work better in MT than in CA.

        Where the ONLY alternative is a 26k modem hookup, it may look pretty good even at its worst. :(

    • Anyone can get broadband anywhere in the United States. Just use a satellite(Hughes). It is just a bit more expensive($69 a month). There have been a lot of articles about the next thing in broadband. There is a company in California that make blimps that supposedly could cover all the United States but it is obviously not here and I have not read any more about it. There is a company in North Dakota that releases a balloon that carries a transponder accross that state for its internet and cell phone b
  • Hmm. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @07:16PM (#25741037) Journal
    I hope that the swaths of America that have sucktastic access to conventional infrastructure weren't planning on using ham radio for anything...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by yahooglesoft (1381239)
      Almost all of my Ham friends simply detest the idea of BPL because of the interference it gives. Its not just us hams that get hurt by this but other commercial and government frequencies that are in the lower range. If they would spend the money to properly shield the electrical lines to remove interference then I'd love to have BPL.
      • I suspect that that would never, ever happen, unfortunately. The whole point of BPL seems to be the getting to use existing infrastructure with minimal modification thing. That, and it would be almost as easy, and a whole lot better, to run fiber along the power lines rather than shielding them.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'm a ham too, but it looks like the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is doing pretty well at keeping BPL off of ham frequencies. However, the ARRL is not standing up for those who want to listen to international short wave broadcasts. These are on frequencies that are allocated for this purpose by international treaties, and by allowing interference on these frequencies the FCC is effectively denying Americans the right to hear news and ideas from other countries.

        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Oh if only there was some way for us to get at news and ideas from other countries via electronic signals...or perhaps a series of tubes?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Mwongozi (176765)

          the FCC is effectively denying Americans the right to hear news and ideas from other countries.

          Sure, because, it's not like internet access is useful for that, or anything.

      • which would probablly cost considerablly more than just running a bloody fiber along the power poles/through the power ducts.

      • by nsaspook (20301)

        Not only the HAMS will be pissed about interference. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numbers_station [wikipedia.org]

        I hated this thing. http://pripyat.com/ru/internet_photo/chernobyl_2/ [pripyat.com]

        • by bitrex (859228)

          Uno. Uno. Dos. Uno. Quatro. Cinco. Cinco. Nueve. Cinco. Siete. Cero. Nueve. Cinco. FINAL. FINAL. FINAL.

          It's even more fun when you can hear crosstalk originating at the transmitter from Radio Habana Cuba. ESTE ES....RRRRADIO HABANA CUUUUBA!

  • by fprintf (82740) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @07:24PM (#25741131) Journal

    Techdirt [techdirt.com] recently asked if we could finally declare BPL officially dead. I guess not!

    There was great concern in the radio control modeling community about potential interference from BPL. In fact, a significant amount of fields are underneath or near these powerlines in the "wasted" space where no one wants to build houses. I recall in 2004 or so there being significant email/forum traffic, particularly from those clubs with sites very close to powerlines or from RC Glider pilots that fly long distances from view, toward the horizon, where planes are susceptible to inteference. It was predicted that there was plenty of potential for concern.

    Apparently with the concept dying off, so did the concern from RC pilots. I found a post as recently as 2006 where there was found to be little cause for concern (gmarc.com [gmarc.com]) using a spread spectrum analyzer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Sorry to break it to you, but more geeks (or hell, people in general) care about internet coverage than those who fly radio controlled devices... under powerlines.
      • by fprintf (82740)

        It may be a moot point because radio controlled modelers are moving to spread spectrum radios nowadays anyway. However the point was that one set of technologies should not push out, inadvertently, into radio spectrum that was granted by the FCC to a specific, if shared, use. In this case, the needs of the "many" were trampling the needs of the relative few but without regard for existing rules granting the usage of the airspace. Imagine if BPL interfered with a 30 pound model, causing it to hit some child

    • so were the complaints filed by amateur radio operators groundless, or does this only speak for the RC modeling community? according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] new BPL modems can detect shortwave radio services that are operating nearby and avoid frequencies allocated for radio broadcast.

      the Wikipedia article also discusses the potential of using BPL as a backhaul for WiFi or WiMax networks. i don't know how densely developed these rural populations are, but assuming that not everyone is going to be accessing the interne

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by atomicthumbs (824207)

        new BPL modems can detect shortwave radio services that are operating nearby and avoid frequencies allocated for radio broadcast.

        Sure you can transmit, but good luck hearing anything.

      • by caluml (551744)

        so were the complaints filed by amateur radio operators groundless, or does this only speak for the RC modeling community?

        Search on YouTube for ham BPL QRM interference, or combinations of those. You'll see god-awful noise all over the airwaves. (QRM = man-made interference in case you were wondering).

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @07:26PM (#25741157) Homepage Journal

    Some of the powerline broadband manufacturers were able to produce systems that didn't interfere with public safety and amateur radio.

    This is necessary, since even a distant powerline broadband system can interfere with emergency communications - the signals skip off the ionosphere and around the whole world, and sometimes contacts by legitimate radio operators can be made at astonishingly low power - meaning that the power line carriers probably have the potential for worldwide interference.

    Earlier this year, ARRL won a suit against FCC that will lead to more realistic parameters for interference. The previous ones applied a single-point interference specification made for consumer electronic devices to any point on a wire, and of course over the total length of the wire the interference power was much higher than the spec.

    The problem is that power lines are not like telephone lines or coaxial cable. Telephone lines are carefully balanced so that they cancel out much of the interference they would otherwise generate. Coaxial cables have their own shield. Power lines are driven in unbalanced mode when RF is injected into them, and thus act just like long antenna wires, and they radiate a great deal of any RF sent down them. No amount of signal processing can fix that.

    Why not use WiMax? It's higher bandwidth, requires less infrastructure overall to install (since you don't have to bypass transformers, etc.) and works for mobiles. Pretty much every business that has invested in BPL for home internet delivery has failed.

    The broadband competition in those areas will end up being between WiMax and cellular.

    Bruce

    • I agree with you completely. An extra point to make? Although such information is now considered "national security" and thus not readily available to the public, in a metropolitan area, just dropping a WiMax at each substation would likely cover about 80-90% of the customer area with a usable signal. The only reason I can think of for not going for WiMax over this solution would be legal in nature. From a technical standpoint, it's a no-brainer.

    • by p51d007 (656414)
      Unless they solve the noise problem, I doubt this will go very far. To much induced noise will splatter every radio, commercial, amateur or other.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Because WiMax won't work in some segments of the market space that BPL if you do it right (See: Corridor Systems...) that WiMax can't because you can't get LOS with mountains in the way but you can G-line (Google for it...) propagate or BPL transmit signals on a powerline.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by iammani (1392285)

      Why not use WiMax? It's higher bandwidth, requires less infrastructure overall to install (since you don't have to bypass transformers, etc.) and works for mobiles.

      Wimax has it own issues too. I am posting this on my Wimax connection in semi-urban Bangalore. While I have no issues with my connection as I live with-in 300m from the tower and the tower is "line-of-sight" from my antenna, I know a lot of people who are completely dissatisfied with it.

      I am not sure if it is because of the bad implementation by my ISP, or its the Wimax standard itself, but if the distance between the wimax tower and the subscriber exceeds 400 m, the connectivity becomes really bad.

      And pres

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bruce Perens (3872) *
        You probably have some implementation issues there, that sounds so short that I'm tempted to ask if you might really be using wifi. Sure, lots of materials attenuate. Latency? I can't believe it would be worse with WiMax than BPL. BPL is generally implemented as one big bus containing the entire network, while with wifi or wimax you can implement cells.
      • I've still never seen an implementation of wimax that actually meets the specification. I work in a small ISP deploying 'wimax' branded alvarion radios, but they sure as hell don't transmit through buildings/objects like 3G might. They're still very much LoS dependant. They also suffer greatly from interference once your number of available channels run out (particularly in the UK). We started off with 2.4GHz radios, moved to 5.8GHz, and now we're having to move everything again to 5.4GHz purely due to
  • Power line ISP? (Score:5, Informative)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @07:28PM (#25741179)

    Okay, there's two problems with this, there always have been, and they still aren't practical to solve. The first is transformers. The second is interference.

    Transformers: They have a resonant coupling frequency. Try to pass high frequency RF through a power conversion transformer and you get scrambled eggs on the other side. So at every point along the line where you meet a transformer, you'll need an RF pass-thru. These aren't cheap; They need to be lightning resistant, fail safe no matter what (otherwise people die -- no joke here), and in general very well designed. A typical loop is going to see maybe 2-4 step-downs from the plant to your house. At least one RF bypass will need to be installed for each customer, along with whatever CPE is required to get the signal.

    Interference: High frequency RF tends to degrade quickly. And above 800 MHz (someone who's an EE, correct me if I'm wrong on the threshold for skin effect) it won't even "stick" to the lines. Because these lines are unshielded aerial lines running in one direction for miles, they make awesome antennas. Which would be great, except... FCC regulations dictate no harmful interference. So any signal being sent down those lines is going to have to be very low power to avoid becoming an omelette with another signal... like say, emergency services. Shannon's law people -- you've got 800 MHz to deal with, a low power signal, and it needs to travel along an antenna some tens of miles along, sucking up every stray RF in the neighborhood. Can you say signal degregation? Any signal you push over that line had better have a helluva lot of error correction. Given it tops out at 3 megabits per second, on a shared link... with 800 MHz of bandwidth to work with... That should give you an idea of just how much the Suck factor is (Low Q for you techies)

    So, great article, I applaud IBM for making the effort, but unless you've got some really nifty new electronics, like a DSP from hell, I don't see this being anything but a money sinkhole. Comcast may suck, but they've got a few gigahertz to work with and no FCC restrictions... Just really bad management, which is the only thing making this even remotely practical.

    • by MikeBragg (981724)
      Great summary above. As an amateur radio operator (K1VI) since 1964, I have a great interest in preserving the hobby. All that takes is having the FCC play by their own rules. The FCC has been shown (in court, sued by ARRL, and convicted) to have profoundly ignored their own rules, and focused their energies on championing BPL companies with no technical merit. I understand there's a new technology or two on the horizon that are compatible with rules against interference. But let's all please monitor
    • Try to pass high frequency RF through a power conversion transformer and you get scrambled eggs on the other side.

      Waitaminute, you're telling me I could have a scrambled-egg making machine with nothing more than that high frequency RF thingy and a transformer!?! Wow! I'll be having omlettes EVERYDAY! Question: can it be any transformer or does it have to be like optimus prime?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      Any signal you push over that line had better have a helluva lot of error correction. Given it tops out at 3 megabits per second, on a shared link... with 800 MHz of bandwidth to work with... That should give you an idea of just how much the Suck factor is (Low Q for you techies)

      If it ends up being cheaper than satellite and faster than dial-up, it'll be a winner in various underserved parts of the country.

    • by sjwest (948274)

      We use some poe kit and within our building with no worries (over a year now) without needing to install long cables.

      I understand from some very limited reading that it can be used to supply comms to a whole building and that has happened in China somewhere.

      Transformers might be a problem now but it shakes up the attitude of some companies i see no problems.

      Wifi and stuff is great in theory but reading some Debian planet stuff means there might be a bad area or too even with competition, im sure those those

    • by SEE (7681)

      Comcast's advantages are pretty irrelevant, since they're specifically talking about "areas not currently serviced by broadband," "where other broadband providers can't afford to build infrastructure." When the choices are 33.6K dialup (these sort of remote areas are going to be on phone equipment that can't handle 56k), satellite, or power line, power line actually has a chance.

    • by tcgroat (666085)

      There are more issues that make RF communications on power lines very difficult. Growing numbers of devices plugged into the AC line generate RF noise, which must be controlled to meet FCC regulations (and overseas equivalents). Manufacturers of switch-mode power supplies include filtering to meet those requirements. That means there's a filter cap lurking inside, shorting out BPL signal on the power line (in this typical example [powerint.com], it's C1). Every time you plug in another device, the AC line transmission pat

      • by Skweetis (46377)

        There are more issues that make RF communications on power lines very difficult. Growing numbers of devices plugged into the AC line generate RF noise, which must be controlled to meet FCC regulations (and overseas equivalents). Manufacturers of switch-mode power supplies include filtering to meet those requirements. That means there's a filter cap lurking inside, shorting out BPL signal on the power line (in this typical example [powerint.com], it's C1). Every time you plug in another device, the AC line transmission path is further compromised.

        In your linked example, filtering is largely handled by the two inductors L2 and L3, just behind the rectifier. The ferrite bead (L1) provides some extra filtering of induced noise as well. C1 is essentially an archaic safety device, and unnecessary, as notebook power supplies are invariably class 2 devices, though it may be providing some filtering, depending on the impedance of the circuit. The value seems too high for that, though -- .33 uF is well into the audio range as a filter, unless I'm misreadi

        • by Agripa (139780)

          In your linked example, filtering is largely handled by the two inductors L2 and L3, just behind the rectifier. The ferrite bead (L1) provides some extra filtering of induced noise as well. C1 is essentially an archaic safety device, and unnecessary, as notebook power supplies are invariably class 2 devices, though it may be providing some filtering, depending on the impedance of the circuit. The value seems too high for that, though -- .33 uF is well into the audio range as a filter, unless I'm misreading

        • by tcgroat (666085)

          No, C1 is a "type X" capacitor connected from line (L) to neutral (N), with only the input fuse between the cap and the power cord. C1 is a differential mode noise filter, and presents a badly mismatched termination to the BPL signals on the L-N wire pair.

          Your reasoning does apply to C3 and C11, much smaller "type Y" caps connected from the rectifier output to ground (E, "Earth"). The combination of less capacitance, common mode chokes L2 and L3, and ferrite bead L1 means that C3 and C11 won't significantl

  • BuLlShIt (Score:2, Troll)

    by Toll_Free (1295136)

    The article I read this morning stated that this was only going to be used for grid monitoring, not for, as this piece of drivel states, rolling BPL out into rural areas.

    BPL is dead. They can't fix the problems inherent to broadband, IE, feedline radiation.

    Amateur radio is MORE important than the internet, sorry to say...

    --Toll_Free

    • Re:BuLlShIt (Score:4, Funny)

      by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @08:20PM (#25741623)

      Its really true. After all amateur radio has really changed the world. After the great HAM radio tech bubble where billions of dollars dumped into "vacuum tube valley", things settled down and REAL change began to happen. Dubbed "HAM 2.0", this is when businesses really began to come on line and change the way commerce works. No longer are orders sent via tedious "snail mail" or fax machine - instead operators fire up their radio, dial the frequency of their business partner, and wait for them to respond. Revolutionary!

      Now, as the technology has matured, a new generation (dubbed "Generation HAM") has grown up using the technology, and couldn't imagine doing without. Over 1 billion people planet wide use HAM radio every day! Imagine that!

  • BPL=DOA (Score:5, Informative)

    by kd5sfk (1235808) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @07:46PM (#25741349)
    I am an amateur radio operator, so I've heard a lot of pros and cons against BPL. Aside from the obvious and well worn HF interference issue, it was my understanding that BPL actually isn't great for rural areas because the distances over which it will work well are way too small. In other words, it needs a fiber connection to feed the powerline grid for a small area. Each area of distribution has to be fed by another fiber run. Seems to me like WiFi or WiMax are much better alternatives for rural areas. And what about the new whitespace frequencies that the FCC recently approved? Wouldn't this make wireless even more attractive?
  • We have a cabin in the mountains, with no power and no phone line. Power has been an option we've been thinking about, but expensive. But no phone line and forest basically means no internet period... powerline broadband would be pretty cool.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Migraineman (632203)
      Sooo ... you look forward to "getting away from it all" by going to your cabin in the wilderness and surfing the internet? Couldn't you pull the shade on your condo, pop open a new pine scented air freshener, and do the same thing from the convenience of your current location? Pardon me for pointing this out, but your argument isn't compelling.
  • Great!!!!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by IHC Navistar (967161) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @08:25PM (#25741677)

    Now I can control my wife's electric "back massager" when I'm away!

  • I'm truly puzzled as to how they think they can make any money given the infrastructure challenges. Pretty much everyone in rural Alberta has multiple wireless providers in range. And there's no interference to the amateur radio or emergency services radio systems as there is using BPL.
    • by compro01 (777531)

      Alberta east of the rockies is fairly flat, same as Saskatchewan next door (where I am), so line-of-sight wireless works very well. I know, I use Sasktel's wireless service myself, and there's another company offering it in my area, though Sasktel stomps them in terms of speed and price (i pay $60/month for 2Mb/256Kb (You could get 10Mb/1Mb DSL in the city for that price, but this beats the hell out of dial up and satellite), whereas the other guys charge over $100 for that).

      Also, they recently (this summe

  • BPL can never work because:

    Line Loss: The power lines are designed to carry 50/60 Hz power. They are woefully inefficient at higher frequencies (BPL
    frequencies are up to 1,000,000 times higher). The high Loss as H.F. means that data repeaters are needed every few poles.

    Radio Interference: The H.F. bands are chock full of licensed users, many of them Emergency Services. Because the power
    lines are so unsuited to carrying H.F. signals, the result would be catastrophic interference both to and from these
    legiti

  • Coaxial cable lines will not radiate that much interference. The powerlines act like giant antennas. It simply won't work. Might as well still be using broadspark signals.

  • Most of Eastern Washington and Oregon, Northern Idaho, and almost all of Montana would probably fall in this category, as well as much of Wyoming and the Dakotas, and vast stretches of the southwest states.

    It is anything BUT an "elusive market"!

    The only reason IBM is looking for Eastern regions that fit this bill is because the grid distances are shorter. It is not because such people are hard to find.
  • I live in the eastern part of Cincinnati, OH and have had BPL for years. It rarely goes down (less often than RoadRunner did) and is great. The strange thing about is that I get faster upload than download. I think it's about $40/month for 2Mb/s download and around 3.5 Mb/s upload. ONly service problem I've had was when a recent hurricane knocked out %90 of our grid; power came on before the data did.
  • I'm a member of Blue Bonnet Electric Coop [bluebonnetelectric.coop] and as a member/owner of it, all I can say is, "Get your happy-asses out here and set that shit up." Fuck, I own over 5 acres of land, I'll sign an easement deal with them to allow a mini-NOC to be setup if it will help sweeten the deal.

    Living with 26.4Kbps dial up is slow death... If the cattle piss on or kick over a junction box, it's lights out.

    The prices for satellite access are obscene and bandwidth caps are a real buzz kill. As for cellular, my house is in

  • Novell got into this market with SNAP. It sounded like a good idea. From what I recall, the problem was that you had to have repeaters all over the place to get around line filters, transformers, and other such items. You add all these costs together and it's hard to make a profit.

    The high speed data looks like line noise to most filters, which are all over the place. The power get reconditioned when the power flows through transformers you see all over the place as well as many other pieces of the el

  • take out everything from baby monitors to ham radio to public service radio. this idea needs to die, hard, forever, period. you can kick 48 ports of DSL into a rural area for $2500 plus 1 to 8 T1 lines of trunkage from several equipment vendors. if you have DLC phone service in the area, you replace the control card and the line cards you want DSL on, and run some trunks out, and it's done. no DSL in rural areas is a cop-out. cost less to provide it than it does to send lawyers to a PUC hearing.

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

Working...