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High-speed Internet Access: Power Lines For Real 203

securitas writes "ID reports that German utilities started offering high speed Internet access via power lines last month, and Sweden and the Netherlands are not far behind. The companies claim to have resolved problems of interference and line noise. US trials are taking place in secret with Reston VA based PowerLine Technologies. Nortel and Siemens abandoned the technology in 1999 but if this is for real DSL and cable may have a new competitor."
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High-speed Internet Access: Power Lines For Real

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  • damn.... FP and everything :)

    ok... on to the real meat of the comment

    this is something that has been thought out to death... frankly, it's a pretty good idea whos time is WAY overdue...

    with everyone pissin' and moanin' about "the last mile", doesn't this pretty much solve that?

    who knows of a house/apartment that DOESN'T have power?
    • Won't someone please think about the Amish? Those poor people. No electricity, no computers and now no Internet, because that will be routed through powerlines! If we don't do something quickly, they will be left behind the rest of civilization! We MUST do something about their terrible situation. Rise up and call for legislation!
  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday August 27, 2001 @02:45AM (#2220293) Journal
    If they can actually deliver on what they promise, it will be interesting. With DSL vendors folding left and right, cable seems to have a clear path to domination. It will be good to see some competition.

    Of course, it'll be interesting to see the first guy who "wires" his own house get fried.
  • they test a lot of things there... that's the place where they tested Ebola monkies and narrowly avoided a nationwide (if not worldwide) epidemic.
  • by sourcehunter ( 233036 ) on Monday August 27, 2001 @02:47AM (#2220300) Homepage
    I'm not sure whether to be happy or worried.

    We all know that our "Friends" at the power company are as good of a monopoly as we could possibly ever know - perhaps even better than the phone/telco monopolies because deregulation occurs at the city/state level instead of at the national level with FCC Regulation....

    So... We go from the hands of one monopoly (Cable) to another monopoly (Phone) to yet a third monopoly (Power).

    I'm not sure which devil is going to be better.

    For areas with limited telco/cable service, this may be the monopoly - and we know how the energy companies are on rates...

    Another question - will this be handled as well as power in California? I hope not...

    • I see this as a blessing. Like many out there I've been waiting for an eternity for broadband. The cable company is finally (started last week) laying the fiber optic in my area for my broadband (DSL is only a dream where I live.) So of course the cable company could charge me whatever they like for broadband (don't tell them but I'd gladly pay out the wazoo for this promised land.) If the power company could start offering me broadband then there might be a little price war.

      You are right in that the cable company and the power company are both monopolies. But, they are only monopolies in the power and cable TV area. The more monopolistic companies we have offering broadband the smaller the broadband monopoly becomes.

      (I hope that made sense to sombody because I really need a nap)
    • I don't understand your point. Yes, Cable is a monopoly for cable TV, phone is a monopoly for telephones and power is a monopoly for, well, power. However, as long as you have at least two of these in your area neither is a monopoly for high-speed internet access. You suddenly have competition.

      Take my example here in Stockholm, Sweden. I can get broadband either via cable or ADSL. Suddenly there is no monopoly, I can make a choice depending on service. Do I want Telia, who seem to be a bit open to running servers on my ADSL, or do I want UPC, who will let me have 5 IP addresses and a slightly higher download speed for more-or-less the same money?

      My opinion of this is that as the three utilities are monopolies they have a reasonably sure financial backing, so they are not goign to go under tomorrow, but to get my extra bradband cash they need to offer something I want, making them mor einteresting than the competitor.
    • > We all know that our "Friends" at the power
      > company are as good of a monopoly as we could
      > possibly ever know - perhaps even better than the
      > phone/telco monopolies because deregulation

      Not in a European country, never! A battle between two giant government-protected coercive monopolies? Each one bleating to ignorant politicians about how they, and only they, have the right to offer The People internet service at grotesque second-by-second rates?

      All this and crippled, bloodless versions of hit games, including the upcoming Duke Nukem: ForeverFightingDaisys.

  • Realy? (Score:3, Informative)

    by kruczkowski ( 160872 ) on Monday August 27, 2001 @02:48AM (#2220301) Homepage
    I live in Germany and all I can tell you that German Telecom would not like that! They are pushing DSL here like crazy. They discontiued flat-rate for ISDN and POTS, so if you want flat rate you have to get T-DSL. No other companys offer flat rate.

    What German Util company are you talking about. I would like to order it!
    • No other companys offer flat rate.

      T-Propaganda worked well on you. There are plenty of others (like arcor, qdsl, qsc, mobilcom, o.tel.o etc.).
      I dont know what util company they are talking about, but www.rwe.de is offering it. Be warned: they are expensive as hell!
      • I spoke the Telecom people and they told me becouse they own all the lines in Germany that if someone want to offer flatrate they would have to pay telecom the fee for using that line. And don't forget that they are hurting for money now! Siemens is laying off 5,000 people (siemens runs T-DSL ATM backbone, not telekom) Thats why all the support numbers are toll.

        Could you please send me the links of the ones you mentiond? address above.
    • That'll be RWE Powerline. I don't think this is a product for the masses. I've been at their stall on CeBIT this year. Ah, well. first they let me wait for ten minutes, 'cause I don't wear a suit. But that's not relevant here.

      The point is, I asked, if they could wire up a house with about 70 tenants (student home). They told me the wire doen't have the capacity.

      If I got them right, the cable has a capacity of 2MBit/sec, which all people who are connected to the same junction box have to share (I think that's about 500 to 1000 at my place, so...).

      Oh well, so I will have to go with DSL.

  • by drDugan ( 219551 )
    sounds like a new Internet technology. Hope no one gets burned.
  • I hope it's true this time. I am soooo tired of Qwest dragging its sorry butt when I live in between two neighbourhoods that have DSL and I can't get it because "We don't believe that it's the right demographic for expansion into that particular area at this time." That's what they actually told me, believe it or not -- and that's also their rationale for continuing to have crappy phone service -- the lines are so bad here, I can't get more than 14.4 on a 56k modem. Did I mention also that I live less than two miles from the State U. and the local "Technology Corridor"? Blarg.
    • Can't you ask your neighbours to let you use their DSL connection? One long ethernet cable from their place to yours and you're plugged.

    • Did I mention also that I live less than two miles from the State U. and the local "Technology Corridor"? Blarg.

      Simple - see if you have line-of-sight to a dorm building and pay some kid in the dorms (with beer, money, whatever) to piggyback an 802.11b connection on his/her nice and fast ethernet connection.

  • Competition? (Score:2, Interesting)

    "if this is for real DSL and cable may have a new competitor"

    If this is true, this must be pretty fast. Does anyone know exactly what speeds this is capable of achieving?

    And also, how does this exactly work? Anyone? Will a power outage affect it? What special equipment is need and how much?

    Really interested in learning more. Someone please point me in the right direction.

    • The last I heard of this in main stream media was in an issue of Popular Science. This is anywhere from 2-4 years ago. In the article the company rep said something like "Speed? We don't think of it in terms of speed." Basicly saying speed was a non-issue.

      Not that I believe him, I'm just relaying what I vaguely remember. Hrmm... guess that might disqualify me for Informative(c).
    • Re:Competition? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mark-t ( 151149 )

      Will a power outage affect it?

      Although the issue of whether or not a power outage will affect it may be of concern to a certain type of person (read: die-hard techno-geek computer junkie), considering that most people run their computers off of the power line coming into their house anyways (laptops notwithstanding), having the internet connection die at the same time as the whole power goes out doesn't seem like such a bad deal to me.

      • some of us do this die-hard techno geek thing for our bread and butter. some of us work in places that have generators and battery backups. some of us may even be off the power grid entirely, with technologies like fuel cell electrical generators and windmills serving our electricity less and less implausable with each passing day. SO, the question bears some merit:

        However, it is patently obvious that power company connectivity will include equipment that draws its power from the very power company that owns it. That being the case, a line break or a station/switching problem will obviously curtail the routing and switching of packets.
      • I can see the question making sense if a power outage in one area affects the broadband in that area AND other areas (unaffected by the power outage). But that can happen now anyway....
  • Was I brave enough to leave the computer running on a UPS during a thunderstorm, disconnecting the powercable now will also cause my internet connection to be dropped...
  • does this remind anyone of the BOFH (bastard operator from hell, the the un-initated) who had a cable with a RJ-45 connector on one side and a wall plug on the other? That man is my god. I AM the PFY
  • will I need a building permit and a *wink wink* licensed electrician to add a new jack to my home network?

    what happens to the signal in my ups?

    ooh... I can store slashdot in my laptop's battery for reading on the plane. :)
  • Power Surge (Score:2, Funny)

    by The_Myth ( 84113 )
    This definately puts a new light on the power shortage in Silicon Valley and California
  • by mESSDan ( 302670 )
    Where telephony only is required, our TelPlus series can be implemented at low cost per subscriber.
    Telephony Only? Sheesh, try saying that 5 times fast.
  • They have been talking about this for quite some time now. The power companies are realizing the potential that they have now. I mean, in the US, close to 100% of the computers are somehow connected to the power grid. This would definitely solve the "last mile" problem that all these companies faced.

    But again, the thought of hooking up a "modem" to a power outlet is kinda freaky...
    • But again, the thought of hooking up a "modem" to a power outlet is kinda freaky...

      USB modems aside, pretty much every single modem hooks up to a power outlet already, in one way or another. Actually, power-line modems probably take both the power and the input from the same socket, so you'll probably end up with a box, that looks darn much like a transformer, with one end going to power outlet and another into your NIC.
    • 'I mean, in the US, close to 100% of the computers are somehow connected to the power grid.'

      hmmmm, not to be a smart ass but is'nt this the leading candidate for Master of the Obvious award in August?
  • Alright folks, let's think about this for a second. One major reason DSL isn't deployed more than it is, is the cost of rolling it out. The installation of the DSLAMs are quite expensive. Now, while I am excited about this new technology I don't see anything stating the cost of rollout. If this is just as expensive, and I'd bet money on it being MORE expensive, it's not going to have any better coverage than the current options. You also have to factor in the temination equipment that will have be be involved at the customer site as well. Like I said, it'll be great if something comes along and replaces my slow, expensive BRI ISDN line, but I don't see it happening for a while. Just my opinion, that's all.
  • Recently a hotly debated topic in my community has been the idea the city should get involved in providing telecommunications services. The proposed plan would mean stringing up miles of fiber all over the city to provide high-speed Internet access to businesses and residential customers. It's this type of technology that makes me so opposed to the idea. If the city could use existing low voltage power lines to transmit data the costs of starting up such a venture would be significantly reduced.

    Still, what would be the life expectancy of this technology? It seems cable and DSL have such a lead in the market it would be hard for power companies to really become competitive. With the emergence of new wireless technologies that have the potential to out perform DSL and cable it seems power line data transmission won't last long on the open market.

    Additionally, how would a power failure effect service? I have a UPS on my system at home so when the power goes out I still have access via modem or even cable service to my servers at work. With power failures that last more than 20 minutes I'm able to log in and shutdown everything safely before the UPS's at work fail. If I were unable to log on because a power failure also effected my Internet access I wouldn't be very pleased. It seems like electrical storms could cause significant interference as well - as all power lines are unshielded (as far as I know). I'm sure there must be some electronic component that keeps power surges from frying your "power line modem" out (another potential problem). So it seems to me there are still some bugs to work out. Only time will tell.

    For now I'm going to stick with cable and wait for high-speed wireless to hit the street.
  • I can just see it now..



    (customer) I DO WUT NOW??


    * burning noise on the line *

    (tech support girl from Alabama) uhh, sir? SIR? damn

  • No need to root my box now, all the script kiddies will just overload my power strip and fry my computer.

    And you gotta know there's no patch for that exploit.
  • Apart from

    * getting the costs right (the example costs look good),

    * getting the safety licked (I presume they have, but it still won't be risk-free), and

    * overcoming spikes etc (which they claim to have done),

    I'll be interested to see how they tackle data security.

    Looking forward to reading my neighbours emails as they whizz through the power lines! Should be able to pick them with a good loop from driving around outside.

  • The real question is whether or not the hardware will let you communicate with anyone else (at a reasonable distance) on you power segment with no changes at the pole?

    If so that would be wild as hell. It would be like having a dry copper pair to eveyone on your street. Small ISP's could spring up over night to offer the powerline to internet bridging as a service.

    Of course with anything this good for the free market the government will try to fuck this up the first chance they get. Might be pretty hard to block though...hey I can dream.
  • Like with DSL, also the Internet over Powerlines relies on high-frequency signals (= radio waves) over the cable. Until a few months ago, these frequencies were prohibited, and only licensed radio stations could use this spectrum. Having such a cable to your home (dsl or power line) is like having a big powerful antenna into your home.

    What about the impact on our health? I know, the impact of high frequency magnetic fields is not fully studied, and even scientists disagree... So aren't we pushing for radio-antennas to stay far away from our homes? Didn't someone tell us, that having a cellular phone near our brain may cause damages? And now we want this high-frequency antennas to our homes, and to our desktop???

    For now, Internet users praise the speed, but soon people will realize and avoid DSL and the like for sake of their health.

    In Italy Telecom Italia doesn't install more than 2 DSL lines for each building, due to "intereference" problems. Ever tried to listen to MW or LW radio inside a radius of 5 meters from a DSL cable or DSL modem??? You hear only noise!

    think about it!

    (I use ADSL in our office, and we are happy with it, but I wouldn't want in in my home)


    • The power lines will be worse for this, but the phone line generally has at least a slight twist, which cancels most radio waves out.

      I have a TV with a coat hanger plugged into the antenna socket, which virtually sits on top of the ADSL modem. The reception is clearer than ever. (There is line-of-sight to the transmission towers on the other side of the wide valley though).

      ADSL is running as fast as Telstra will allow.

      My parents house is too far away from the city to use ADSL (too far from exchange plus it doesn't support it anyway). I wonder if powerlines will allow them to get faster than 50k? The street has the 11kV (or whatever) lines, with the stepdown transformer. The 240V line is isolated. (Australia has 240V power)

      I would like fast internet there!
  • My DSL has more uptime than my power.
    Com-Ed sucks!
  • US trials are taking place in secret with Reston VA based PowerLine Technologies
    um,if its secret why do we know about it?
  • maybe next year at this time, instead of all california being blacked out, there will just be 5,000,000 computer nerds without any decent bandwidth.
  • I'd like to shout out to all the punks from revolution cafe in herndon virginia, fuck yeah! get that fucking power line ultra fast bandwidth working to the burroughs of chantilly next bitches! fucking shouting out to ciscon, relik, zealot, unocide, and fucking CRICKETNES IN MANASSASS bitch! calling in from fucking UVA! FUCK DUDE!, FUCKING GO NUTS WITH THIS SHIT! FUCK YEAH BITCH! BEER AT THE SHIT MAN! COOK IT FUCKFACE YEAH BITCH!


  • "Faced with mounting competition from the electric power industry, which has recently launched ultra-high speed internet access via power lines, in a joint news conference, representatives of 4 RBOCs, and 3 cable TV facilities providers, have announced a new program to provide alternative electric power to consumers using their existing installed wiring. 4 major power generating companies, including one specializing in environmentally clean generating capacity, have also announced partnerships with the 7 new power competitors to jump-start the new alternatives, who currently have no power generating facilities of their own. The first customers should be signed up sometime in the next few months."
  • I suppose a con is that anyone could just T-splice into your powerlines and listen in to your packets. But on the plus side, anyone foolish enough to splice into a 10,000 volt powerline probably won't be listening for very long...

    Hey, maybe this kind of technology will see the advent of Black ICE like we all used to read about in Gibson's books... :)

    • No need to splice, the powerlines are acting as antennas at the frequencies PLC is using, thus happily transmitting your precious data to everyone willing to listen ... The companies have claimed to have solved the interference problems for who knows how long, but have they really? They can't deny the laws of physics whatever they do.

    • Well, not exactly splicing into the line. If I recall earlier articles on this subject correctly, the trasmission is achieved by modulating the electro-magetic feild that is created by the electricity. In fact there have been versions of this made for home networks and for the transmission of television signals for a while now. Anyway, you don't need to splice anything, you just need a good triangulation antena to read the feild surrounding the transmision wires going into your house. With those extra-high powered lines you probably don't have to be all that close to them to do the evesdropping.

      Which, of course, brings up all sorts of questions about how much responsibility each party takes for the security of such things.

  • by antdude ( 79039 ) on Monday August 27, 2001 @03:56AM (#2220408) Homepage Journal
    Assuming California is in a heat wave and the power reserve is small, then how will this high-speed Internet access supposed to work during a rolling black out? I assume both Internet access and electricity would go out. Double whammies. :(

    • by gvonk ( 107719 ) <slashdot@@@garrettvonk...com> on Monday August 27, 2001 @04:34AM (#2220454) Homepage
      What good would internet access be without power, dude?
    • Hate to break it to you like this, but unless you have a decent UPS, when you lose your power, you lose power to your computer, thus losing your means of accessing the internet... but on the other hand, if you have a decent laptop with a good dialup modem *shudder*, you would retain internet access. But on the premise that you had previously stated, there is no real difference between losing power and losing internet.
    • I'm fairly certain that this wouldn't work during a rolling black out. Then again, neither would the computers (well, the ones with UPSs would hold out for a little while). Anyway, I seriously doubt that this will be done in California until the power problem is resolved. It would be really stupid to provide this service which would increase costs for the power companies and most likely increases power usage in a place where power is in short supply and expensive.
      • Anyway, I seriously doubt that this will be done in California until the power problem is resolved. It would be really stupid to provide this service which would increase costs for the power companies and most likely increases power usage in a place where power is in short supply and expensive.

        I'm not so sure about that. As far as I understand it (and, no i'm not from california....hell, i'm not even american so please correct me if i'm spouting bull*), the source of the california power shortages is due to dumbo regulations which mean the power companies have to sell power to the cuystomer for less than they buy it.

        Obviously, there wouldn't be such silly restrictions on the sale of internet access over the same powerlines. Therefore, this could potentially be a real lifesaver for californian power co's. I believe there is quite a high demand for internet access in california....

    • Um, internet access is less useful when you have no power to run your computer.
    • Hmmm...

      Wouldn't your computer/network/etc go down during a blackout anyway?
      Somehow, I don't think that is a major concern to me.
    • A bunch of smarties think they are oh so clever by pointing out that without power, internet access is kinda useless.

      Hey dudes, some people have UPS power backup, others have propane genarators. That's not just homes. There are businesses in the area too. And it's not just inside out. Maybe others who still have power want to access a computer inside the blackout area.
      • You make a good point that there are businesses with local power generation, but the second point is less strong. If you have a system to which others want always-on access, you're going to want to use something other than this power-line access anyway, most likely. If I were running a business and thought to have a generator, I'd likely already have considered the possibility that a power outage (of any kind, not just intentional) could cause trouble, and would therefore want some form of 'Net access that's not sensitive to a blackout.

  • I haven't read anything about Powerline in Germany, and note that the post did NOT contain any articles from even semi-reliable sources. The powerline website is very outdated, it still has promises for (1Q-2001)!. Add to that the proliferation of buzzwords (they've invented their entire architecture over there!) and the lack of specifics and I think i'm looking at a mirage....

    Also note the lack of ability to BUY anything, or any links to any hardware vendors building the stuff....

    Of course, maybe it's just me....
    • www.powerline.de
      You can get it for two moths now in Germany.

      (BTW I think these are different companies, powerline.de is owned by german energy-giant RWE wheras powerline.com seems to be rather small)

  • I live outside Pittsburgh, in a rural area, in a border war between a few cable companies, and I've yet to get high speed access of any kind.

    Anything more in the mix is a welcome, maybe I'll actually get it somewhere... Been waiting like 12 years for something better than modem.
  • 10 Mbits/sec!!! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    From their website (woefully short on technical detail):

    "Provides standard data rate of 2.4 Mb/s at user level (to be boosted to 10 Mb/s by Q1-2001), using a highly efficient modem, specially designed to operate in noisy power line environments."

    If it really is as plug-n-play as it sounds, this technology must have the telecoms sweating bullets. (Wait a sec-- Q1-2001 was 6 months ago!)

    However, I too am skeptical about line noise--have you ever measured the voltage at the outlets of your house? 114V here, 110 there.... The 60Hz voltage ripple might not matter so much, given that they're probably using a band at least in the MHz range, but I have difficulty believing that you can get enough signal-to-noise to filter out all that 'nonsense' MHz noise while at the same time still keeping that line voltage as constant as it needs to be.

    Re: UPS power strips-- fundamentally these work by ISOLATING your computer from high frequency noise (surges & dropouts)!! You would definitely have to get a new UPS if you used this system--or else plug in your adapter in parallel with your UPS.

    Also, 2.4Mb/s at the "user level"--I assume they mean that even though you're sharing a connection with everyone in your neighborhood (a la cable modems), somehow those high voltage power lines can maintain this bandwidth for everyone on your block/neighborhood/city--but of course on any line there has to be a ceiling. Anyone know any specifics of this technology?

    Side note-- I work for a prominent fuel cell system developer (fuel cells=grid independent power). Maybe the electrical utilities are looking ahead to the inevitable replacement of centralized power plants by distributed power generation methods such as fuel cells. The beauty of this power-grid-qua-high-speed-access technology is twofold: (1) no need to spend the billions it would take to string fiberoptic cable all over the world, and (2) there will still be a use for the existing power grid in 25 years.

    • 2.4 mbits/sec means (by very coarse calculations, of course) at least 240 kHz bandwidth and S/N at least 30 dB (Or, if you like, 2400 kHz and S/N at least 0 dB). It means that all the noise produced by the mains (There is a lot of it! When my HDD starts, I have ROAR in my R-399 military grade RX unless I use the special 5/12V filters inside the PC) will be increased 30 dB more. My friend - amateur radio operator - cannot work DX because of mains RFI. And now all his troubles will be increased to 30 dB, and the roar of mains modems will be heard from all the LW radios. Alternatively, all the RF band from 0 to more than 2.4 MHz will be spoiled. It will be more terrible than the famous Russian "Woodpecker" radar that some cold war days ago spoiled all the world SW communication.
  • Deadborn - why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thor Ablestar ( 321949 ) on Monday August 27, 2001 @04:05AM (#2220417)
    I believe the project is born dead. Let me explain why.

    I believe the signal bandwidth as well as it's transmission distance corresponds to the group of 3-5 standard Soviet-era buildings, 80 apartments each. The single transformer serves this group - and also insulates the group from the 10-kV backbone network. It means that we either should place the routers on each transformer - or the capacitor bridges will passively route the data, overloading the network as a whole - or the groups will be insulated and still need a group router somewhere.Don't forget that all the equipment will be special (read: expensive due to limited production size).

    Now let us consider the nearest competing technology - UTP Ethernet. You can easily buy routers, bridges, switches, cables, protectors and have no problems with mounting the cables between the buildings since there are usually NO roads between them; you can either throw the cable from roof to roof or use the existing phone tubes. You can use 802.11, leased lines or laser links as longlinks between networks. Such networks exist in post-Soviet territory and they work, mostly being supported by enthusiasts.

    Moreover, now I take part in designing of time signals transmission system using the power lines, and I know that it's problematic to obtain the transmission speed comparable not even to Ethernet, but to V.32. The special chips I have access to have about 900 bits/sec. Anything giving the higher speeds will produce a lot of RFI, and it cannot be avoided.

    Then, the second factor. Using the modem I can contact with any other modem; using the V.90 modem I have some troubles :-( having 56k with my friends; with DSL I cannot use the modem for anything except the Internet access. The same may be true for the electric networks, but not for Ethernet.

    Since the power line modem cannot be used as a traditional modem ( 3-5 buildings zone - not more) it will be promoted by the ISP's in the monopoly way only.

    So I believe the project will fail leaving a lot of expensive equipment on consumers' hands - as it has already been with some DSL companies. You have been warned.
  • Well, I guess it is better than "I have a BRILLIANT plan to make lots of money offering high speed Internet access, something that people really want! The only trouble is, you have to next door to the phone company! Let's call it DSL and invest billions into it! We'll make a profit in no time! Everybody lives next to a switching station!"
  • Please, most of us do not care about Cali at all. The place is played out. History. Over with regard to relevance. The AOL of states. Enough. Buy your beach fron property in Arizona and to hell with California, power grid whining, and the word 'geek' as it 'relates' to us enthusiasts. A geek is a dork same as it ever was.
  • Billy, stop playing with the internet lines... you may shock yourself.
  • I think a lot of the posts here have missed the point a little. The main problem with this concept is the RF noise. Everything else is fairly simple.

    All the system has to do is transmit to a substation (in the UK this already happens as the national grid makes a "packet" (har har) out of their Energis telco subsidiary) and then "transform" (I'm on form today) the signal to a high RF signal for the last mile. At the user's house, they have to get a replacement electricity meter (usually heavily subsidised by the electricity company if they want to take advantage of items like human-free meter reading) which contains both a power output/fuse box and also ethernet RJ45 ports.

    The kicker is noise, both inside and outside the system. In tests in the UK a few years ago, whenever the fridge started up, you lost your connection (too much noise for too long - so everything timed out). Wire transmission caused no end of trouble too - nobody could listen to an FM station if they lived within 100 yards of the substation. These are the big faults, so if they have been solved, we have a viable alternative. Otherwise, it's just about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

  • by manon ( 112081 )
    I don't like the idea of putting 240V (110V US) on my ethernet card.
  • Here some information [powerline.de] on the powerline(.de) service from RWE/Germany. (Their engl. FAQ)

    and the Tariffs range from:
    ~20 US$ per month for 250MB plus 6 cents per MB after 250MB and a one time charge of 150 US$ for the modem TO
    ~110 US$ per month for 10GB plus ~1.3 cents per MB after 10GB and a one time charge of 90 US$ for the modem.

    I'd assume that US tariffs will look similar.

    In Germany the big contender is the Deutsche Telekom and its online daughter T-Online, which offers a ~30US$ 24h/unlim. traffic dsl offer with no modem costs and 768/128 I/O. (and a market share of at least 90% I'd guess>



  • The companies delivering PowerLine in Germany
    ( RWE (english PowerLine description) [rwe-powerline.de], MVV and EnBw [enbw.com]) should know that they have no chance against DSL, cable (just starting in Germany) and satellite.

    Because a whole neighbourhood has to share
    the 2Mbit/s (or in the future 10Mbit/s) -
    as stated in other comments - the effective speed
    will drop very low. Additionally there are
    the interferences with amateur radio and others.

    Although the companies claim they can compete
    with DSL&al they are beginning to spread into the
    3rd world. Currently RWE is doing some "evaluation" in Brasil. They hope that in the 3rd world - with no telephone lines, but power lines
    they have a market. That's acutally what they say.

    But I personally doubt that there is a market
    for PowerLine - neither in Germany nor elsewhere in the world. It's already a dead technology
    if it does not change fundamentally.
  • Awesome! So now that California's electrical infrastructure is collapsing, are they going to start offering backup power via dial-up? (j/k)
  • ..Siemens hasn't abandoned the technology. Along with the local Viennese ISP Chello BroadBand [chello.at] they implemented a Internet over Cable TV and they go to great lenghts developing a system to cover a greater area by using local power lines. As far as I know their greatest problem is not with line noise but with repeaters that crash continuously (maybe because of power fluctuations)

  • Polish company STOEN [stoen.pl] also started such tests in August. They will last till the end of the year.

    (Of course the only purpose of these tests is to show that their service won't be available in my area. :-/)

  • that'll be RWE here in Essen. They've been beta-testing for some 6 months now, and are about to roll out. There is quite a bit of competition though, from DSL providers like Deutsche Telekom, Arcor Mannesman (Vodaphone/Airtouch), and now Yahoo! and AOL.

    thing is, RWE give you about 300MB bandwidth a month before they start charging per MB. my mate wants to sign up for their 2Mbit offer at DM250 a month, or 70 pounds sterling. 125 US dollars I think.

  • Maybe this will help the people that live in rural areas, where cable company's don't venture, and the closest C.O. is more than the maximum 15,000(give or take a few thousand feet depending on the vendor) foot limit. Living in a rural area myself, this gives me some hope at achieving more than a modem connection before 2020.

  • some actual links... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kraft ( 253059 ) on Monday August 27, 2001 @07:30AM (#2220658) Homepage
    Hmm... no links in the news? Dodgy, if you ask me...

    Provider: RWE [rwe-powerline.de]
    - Power line internet access launched by Germany's RWE [europemedia.net] - Quote: "The power line technology will mean that RWE PowerNet can deliver data at a rate of two million bytes per second."
    - Shocking Concept: Internet Over Electrical Lines [newsfactor.com]

    Provider: Sydkraft Bredbånd [sydkraftbredband.com] - provides up to 8mbit/s downstream.
    - Sweden Using Electricity For High-Speed Connections [internetnews.com]

    continue list at will. I just know it will take forever before I can get anything but forced AOL crap connections where I live in France :(
  • In Germany, it's called RWE PowerNet.

    The service offers two Mbit/sec access, a plug and play USB / Ethernet modem, Internet access via every electrical outlet in the house, etc.

    You can read about it (in German) here [rwe-powerline.de], or you can use the BabelFish version [altavista.com] to see it in (mostly) English. You can also get a brochure in PDF format [rwe-powerline.de] that gives the sales pitch.
  • Last time I read [cnet.com] about this technology (~2 years ago) they were claiming home speeds of up to an exobit(10^18) per second. According to this brochure [powerline.com] this company is only offering up to 10 megabits(1^6)per second. What happened to the truely awesome power(no pun intended) behind these broadband lines?
  • by anticypher ( 48312 ) <anticypher AT gmail DOT com> on Monday August 27, 2001 @07:53AM (#2220687) Homepage
    There are two companies who have announced plans to offer internet over power lines, and only one has received a license and started a very limited offering in one city only (Essen). I think the link is www.rwe-powerline.de.

    The service is quite limited. In order for a neighborhood to get access, they have to wait until the company wires up the local substation. There can be no transformers between the substation and the house. Once a neighborhood has access, a technician comes out and installs a box at the meter junction, and then connects the modem to an internal power socket. The powerline modems communicate with the box outside, which in turn communicates with the router at the substation, and everything after that is normal internet. There is no communication across most of the power system, the signals can't pass transformers or switching stations. The signals have an effective limit of 350 meters, which is much shorter than DSL or cable.

    The 2Mbps limit is for an entire neighborhood, and is shared by all the other connections in the area. There is a cap at 250Mb per month, sometime later they will offer a 10Gb cap, but only to businesses and at a rate equal to leased line. The companies both are targeting high-density cities, and have no plans to offer this to any rural areas or small towns, because of the 350 meter limit on distance from substation to home.

    For the trials last year, the modems had only a serial connection, and had to be "dialed" just like a regular analog modem, and the speed was limited to 115kbps. Their website claims they now have ethernet and USB connections as well. The last I saw, every customer gets a private IP address, and the company doesn't allow servers of any kind.

    The truly sad thing is, in Germany this really is competition and an improvement for the market.

    the AC
    [kann jemand in Essen post einen Kommentar über den Service?]
    • In Europe, houses and businesses receive 240V electricity, as opposed to 120V in the U.S., Canada, and others. Due to the physics of alternating current, that means that European electric companies can make the lines between customers and immediately upstream transformers longer than they can be in the U.S. It also means that they need fewer transformers within a particular area. That translates into cheaper deployment of powerline Internet, since you'd have fewer transformers to which the company would need to run T-1 lines (or something).

      For example: I've been to Switzerland a couple of times. When I was there, I never saw a transformer that served homes; they don't need that many, and they're really good at hiding them anyway. In the U.S., however, you see them everywhere, hanging off power poles, or as big honkin' green boxes on the ground. Typically, such transformers serve only four to six houses each; decent-sized businesses (e.g. grocery stores) get their own, really big box (to hold a two-phase or three-phase transformer). Would a T-1 to each and every transformer be cost-effective?

      So, IMHO, it's workable in Europe, but much less so in the U.S.

      - Chris
    • First of, I am not in Essen nor am I a potential customer of rwe-powerline.

      Then again, nothing could interest me less, because our local power company (RWE is kind of a german-wide conglomerate) has taken their time to actually rewire out city (Norderstedt, near Hamburg, >50.000 inhabitants) to turn it into a multimedia-city. Here is their story.

      As much as I hate big fuzzy terms, I love well-provided service at cheap rates. That is what I am getting right now. The german Telekom is busting lawsuits at these guys for some time now, so you gotta know the service *must* be good. Wilhelm-tel got me hooked up within 4(!) working days after applying for service. I could take my old number from the Telekom phone line. I got a Motorola cable modem *free* of charge along with a NIC to ram into my machine and connect the cablemodem to. I have free phone service for local calls within the wilhelm-tel net. When testing the pipe i got bursts of up to 20 (!) Megabits (before the cablemodem throttled down) showing me that the net is not designed tight but redundant. At max. 8 people are connected to a 20MBit circuit, so with everyone surfing like mad, you still get the 2MBit you pay for at minimum. Nothing the Telekom could offer.

      But first things first. wilhelm-tel (www.wilhelm-tel.de), our local power provider established a glass fibre backbone around Norderstedt and is currently wiring up individual households. Which means that you get a new wall plug for your tv connection. On this plug there is another connector which plugs in a Motorola cable modem and later even the set top box (they're planning to deliver digital tv later on) and a new phone jack. I had the opportunity to change my provider for phone over to wilhelm-tel which i gladly did. It has been a dream of mine to stop giving money to the Telekom monopoly for a long time. Now it's true.

      Telekom is pushing DSL like mad everywhere (768down/128up). What they don't mention is the fact that out of a "userbase" of 400.000 customers, only 150.000 are already connected. The dirty rest (mostly individuals, not businesses) are waiting, some for more than 2 years by now. Their DSL flatrate also requires you to rent ISDN phone service and therefore all in all becomes a pricey thing. Overall it is a pretty scam, as people around here in Norderstedt have been waiting for DSL a very long time. After changing to wilhelm-tel they all (including me, who had not signed up for DSL but only cancelled his usual phone service) got called by Telekom reps trying to persuade us to get DSL instead of this lame 2MBit up/down wilhelm-tel with free local calls and all that. Asked if they had a better offer they said DSL could be up and running at normal rates for you in 2 weeks. AHH! ALl of sudden there is availability in my area. Strange. Smells like fear of competition.

      Let's take a look at the rwe-powerline offer...

      http://www.europemedia.net/shownews.asp?ArticleI D= 4306 says:
      power line technology will mean that RWE PowerNet can deliver data at a rate of two million bytes per second.
      Outright wrong, they offer two million BITS a sec.

      Then you have to choose a service with RWE, which is basically a volume-cap thing. Go for 250, 1000 or 2000 megabytes a month and pay whatever you exceed with 7, 3.5 or 2 cents per MEGABYTE. This stinks of rip-off to me. Your monthly base price is $25, $35 or $50 depending on the tariff you sign up for. It also requires a one-time setup fee of roughly $50 and the modem has to be bought for $178, $152 or $127 (again depending on tariff).

      What we have here is a monopolist (RWE=power) trying to get into another monopoly structure. Wilhelm-tel offers their service for $25 flat (including an undisclosed traffic amount for "fair private use", but my 10-15GB a month have not stirred anything there). You rent the modem for just 5 Marks ($2,50). No setup fees. Âlso, I can cancel anytime. RWE requires you to close a contract for 12 months, or 24 months if you want to save the one-time setup fee.

      All the prices and conditions were taken from http://www.rwe-powerline.de/relaunch/preise/preise .htm and rudely converted to US-dollars to interest even the US-centric slashdotters.

      To sum it up: RWE is a step somewhere but not quite the CORRECT direction. Most hardcore surfers in the area will be glad to get it. But wilhelm-tel is cheap and good enough to even interest the "unwashed masses" for broadband.

      Now, you go to your local service provider and tell him to sink some glassfibre when he digs out the water pipes for checkup next time. That is basically what wilhelm-tel did in order to minimize infrastructure costs.

  • They don't get around the problem of high frequencies being attenuated by the pole transformers, they simply don't worry about it because they have their CuPlus units sitting up there too.

    Deployment of this technology will be far slower than DSL or cable, simply because every neighbourhood (or fraction of a neighbourhood) requires a CuPlus unit in order for this to work. That's one CuPlus unit for every pole transformer!

    In my area, I see a pole transformer service at most two dozen households. The deployment for this technology will be insanely long.

    The other question I have which isn't answered is how the RuPlus or NtPlus units can be plugged into any outlet and work when the split-phase wiring in North America effectively isolates the two 120VAC circuits from each other? Your pole transformer usually takes a 1200-13kV line and neutral and then gives you a center-tapped, 240VAC output (3 wires) to your house. Do they have the equivalent of a hub and two modems to distribute the incoming (to your house) signal across both phases and take the possibly distinct return signals, figure them out and put them back on to the main communications bus?

    Whatever happened to those guys who claimed to be using a maser to modulate the magnetic field, thereby defeating Maxwell's equations and getting high frequency data through the 60Hz transformers? I'd love to see a working demo.

    • Whatever happened to those guys who claimed to be using a maser to modulate the magnetic field, thereby defeating Maxwell's equations and getting high frequency data through the 60Hz transformers?

      You must be talking about Media Fusion [mediafusionllc.net]. They used to have an interesting site but now they've done some reorganization in the company and just put up a "under construction" sign. Its been there for some time now. I'm hoping its true but I'm thinking "SCAM."

      Their claims were that they could put their units in the power distribution stations and then everyone would be able to buy little boxes to plug into their outlets that would be able to recieve and transmit data. They claimed data transmission rates in the gigabit range.

      • Their claims were that they could put their units in the power distribution stations and then everyone would be able to buy little boxes to plug into their outlets that would be able to recieve and transmit data. They claimed data transmission rates in the gigabit range.

        Yeah that's them. They claimed to be able to "tunnel" through the magnetic field caused my electrical current flow with a maser. I downloaded their patent but couldn't make sense of it.

  • Will this screw up all my X-10 [x10.com] stuff?

    Will I screw up their power modems?
  • The Powerline [powerline.com] site is so vague I suspect the whole thing may be a scam. They don't say much about the technology, the bandwidth, the spectrum used, the FCC approvals obtained, or the error rate. This isn't a new idea; it's an old idea that's hard to make work. Nothing on that site indicates convincingly that they've solved the problems. Note the lack of product pictures and pricing info. The site itself looks like it was put together using all stock photography.

    Whois for "powerline.com" returns names with e-mail addresses on "powertrust.com". Whois for "powertrust.com" returns some of the same names and addresses, with e-mail addresses on "powerline.com". So we can conclude that "powerline.com" and "powertrust.com" are under the same ownership. There's interlinked domain ownership with "powerfulnetworks.com"(an ISP), and "powerinternet.org". (Clearly, these guys like "power").

    Most of these organizations are located at 1701 S. Mays St, #J-121, Round Rock, Texas. At the same address are Gino's Pizzaria (#B), Eyecare Vision Centers (#R) , and My Choice Liquors (#N). Aerial photography confirms this is a mall. The "J-121" probably indicates some kind of mail drop, although it's not a MailBoxes Etc. location.

    Going to "powertrust.com" [powertrust.com], we see just a logo and the tag line "The possibilities beyond the power". The page description for that page reads:

    • PowerTrust.com is an Internet-based energy company offering savings for homeowners and small businesses. PowerTrust.com also offers such beyond-the-meter benefits as low-cost Internet access with no long-term contracts, domestic long-distance telephone rates for a flat 5.9 per minute anytime day or night with no monthly fee, and discounts on other home products and services.

    So they have a full range of vaporware services.

    PowerLine itself is at 11180 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA [larsencommercial.com], which is an office building. "PowerTrust" is also at that location - listed as an oil and gas company. [building.org]

    Digging further, it gets worse. PowerTrust is in trouble for "slamming" natural gas services [opc-dc.gov], switching customers to their service without authorization. They've "withdrawn" from the Washington DC area gas market, with the "encouragement" of the local regulatory authorities. It's not clear that they did any physical delivery of gas; it just seems to have been a remarketing thing.

    A press release from PowerTrust [internet.com] indicates that PowerLine is a business unit of PowerTrust. It's supposedly a "joint venture with 'M@innet.net'", which provides the power line networking technology. Can't find "M@innet.net" in anything but PowerLine press releases, though.

    So that's a brief rundown, and it doesn't look good.

    This doesn't mean the technology is out of reach. There's a consortium for power-line networking: HomePlug [homeplug.org]. There's an evaluation kit [intellon.com] available from Intellon. Includes source code for Linux drivers. Speed is around 8Mb/s now. They hope to get to 50Mb/s in a few years.

    Lower speed systems are shipping. Easyplug [easyplug.com], at 2Mb/s, is available now.

    Like DSL, this is one of those things that just barely works because the transmission medium is so noisy, but can be made to work with very elaborate modulation techniques. Here's how HomePlug does it. [csdmag.com]

A language that doesn't have everything is actually easier to program in than some that do. -- Dennis M. Ritchie