August 24, 2005 3:23 PM PDT

Power line broadband gets popular with tech firms

The technology that allows the internal power wiring in a home to deliver broadband service is getting some heavy-hitting endorsements from large technology companies including Intel, Motorola and Cisco Systems.

On Wednesday, the companies threw their weight behind a group called the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, which develops standards and specifications for businesses and service providers offering broadband-over-power-line, or BPL, service into the home.

Intel, Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems, and Motorola all signed on as new sponsor members of the group. Matt Theall, a marketing manager at Intel, also has been elected president of the alliance. In addition, the group developed a new Implementers' Forum Board of Directors to get more industry involvement in developing and implementing standards. The group includes representatives from the sponsor companies, as well as Comcast, EarthLink, RadioShack, Sharp and Sony.

Also on Wednesday, Intel and Motorola were named as two investors in Intellon, a start-up that makes integrated circuits based on HomePlug's specifications. The company said it has raised $24.5 million in new funding. BCE Capital, which is affiliated with Bell Canada, Canada's largest communications company, led the funding round. Other investors included Goldman Sachs, Intel Capital and Motorola Ventures. Previous investors, including Comcast Interactive Capital, Duchossois, Fidelity Ventures and Philips Venture Capital Fund, also contributed to the funding round.

For several years, many have hoped that BPL would allow electric companies to become a viable third alternative to the cable and telephone companies providing high-speed access to the Internet. But technical limitations and interference problems have held BPL back from reaching its promised potential.

The involvement of big tech names in helping develop broadband over power line technology could be a signal that it is finally coming of age. In addition to companies like Intel and Motorola, others such as Google and IBM also have taken notice of the technology. Last month, Google invested in Current Communications Group, a BPL service provider. IBM announced it would partner with Houston-based power utility CenterPoint Energy to build a BPL network.

Still, experts say it will take much more industry involvement before the technology truly becomes viable.

"It's encouraging to see Google and Intel interested in the technology," said Joe Laszlo, research director for broadband at JupiterResearch. "On the other hand, what needs to happen is for the diverse players to come together and form a standard rather than proprietary ways of doing it."

HomePlug is one group that is trying to solve this problem. There are also efforts being explored in other groups. The IEEE and the Consumer Electronics Association are forming study groups to look into the technology too.

"There are lots of groups exploring standards efforts," Laszlo said. "It would be better for the industry, and we'd get standards faster if these efforts were more concentrated. But we're just not at that point yet."

14 comments

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BPL The Home vs the Metro Network
Home Network BPL solutions are a no brainer. They operate over existing power lines in the home and are easy and cost effective to deploy.
Do not assume the same of the Power companies trying to deliver real Broadband services over their Electric Grids. They have a long way to go to compete with copper and fiber in a cost/meg/subscriber model.
However, most of this may be wasted effort in that Wireless will rule both these markets anyway. It will deliver comparable if not better bandwidth at lower cost and it allows users to be Mobile in and around their homes. Convenience sells.
Jacomo
Posted by jacomo (115 comments )
Reply Link Flag
BPL The Home vs the Metro Network
Home Network BPL solutions are a no brainer. They operate over existing power lines in the home and are easy and cost effective to deploy.
Do not assume the same of the Power companies trying to deliver real Broadband services over their Electric Grids. They have a long way to go to compete with copper and fiber in a cost/meg/subscriber model.
However, most of this may be wasted effort in that Wireless will rule both these markets anyway. It will deliver comparable if not better bandwidth at lower cost and it allows users to be Mobile in and around their homes. Convenience sells.
Jacomo
Posted by jacomo (115 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yawn.
BPL will be expensive to deploy (yes, I said that), and by the time the products start to mature WiMax will already be deployed. It is also a common mistake to compare what BPL is capible of to the Cable/DSL deployments we use today. If BPL deployments do take hold they will be competing with a different market than we have today.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yawn.
BPL will be expensive to deploy (yes, I said that), and by the time the products start to mature WiMax will already be deployed. It is also a common mistake to compare what BPL is capible of to the Cable/DSL deployments we use today. If BPL deployments do take hold they will be competing with a different market than we have today.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is interesting...
... and seems to offer the solution to VoIP's power AND bandwidth requirement.
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is interesting...
... and seems to offer the solution to VoIP's power AND bandwidth requirement.
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lawsuits
I think it will be interesting to see how many lawsuits the giant telcos file as this technology moves from development to implementation. Will the telcos fight and try to stop PUs from becoming ISPs as fervently as they currently fight municipal wireless?
Posted by Nathan Lunn (113 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lawsuits
I think it will be interesting to see how many lawsuits the giant telcos file as this technology moves from development to implementation. Will the telcos fight and try to stop PUs from becoming ISPs as fervently as they currently fight municipal wireless?
Posted by Nathan Lunn (113 comments )
Reply Link Flag
tech over 60 years old
Comic books used to have adds for electronic gizmos of the era. One such add was for 2 way voice communication on the power line. For 25c you got 2 pages of mimeograph directions. It was called "Triple C Circiut". 3 condenser, earphones and courage got you on the air, limited to only those on the same tranformer.
Posted by wtortorici (102 comments )
Reply Link Flag
tech over 60 years old
Comic books used to have adds for electronic gizmos of the era. One such add was for 2 way voice communication on the power line. For 25c you got 2 pages of mimeograph directions. It was called "Triple C Circiut". 3 condenser, earphones and courage got you on the air, limited to only those on the same tranformer.
Posted by wtortorici (102 comments )
Reply Link Flag
BPL a BAD Idea!
This idea of sending "noise" that will radiate out on power lines is a bad idea. Noise pollution will increase, not only for amateur radio operators, but some federal and public service areas.
The FCC itself admitted the problem, but the "all mighty dollar" won out-again! For info see here:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/HTML/plc/" target="_newWindow">http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/HTML/plc/</a>

mikecheck at despammed.com
Posted by mng6885 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You've been...
listening to Coast to Coast AM with George Noory and Art Bell again, haven't you?
Posted by Nathan Lunn (113 comments )
Link Flag
BPL a BAD Idea!
This idea of sending "noise" that will radiate out on power lines is a bad idea. Noise pollution will increase, not only for amateur radio operators, but some federal and public service areas.
The FCC itself admitted the problem, but the "all mighty dollar" won out-again! For info see here:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/HTML/plc/" target="_newWindow">http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/HTML/plc/</a>

mikecheck at despammed.com
Posted by mng6885 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You've been...
listening to Coast to Coast AM with George Noory and Art Bell again, haven't you?
Posted by Nathan Lunn (113 comments )
Link Flag
 

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