Aurora wants to light the way with BPL

Ultra fast Internet is set to race through power lines across Tasmania, with Auroa Energy also seeking to push its Broadband over Powerline (BPL) business model to utilities across the country.

TasTel, a subsidiary of Aurora Energy, has been commercially trialling BPL since September last year. The service is so far delivering up to 200Mbps speeds to 1200 homes in Hobart and Burnie.

Aurora business development manager, Bob Darwin, said that Aurora will offer wholesale access under the brand name of eAurora subject to business case approval in the next few months, and he hopes to utilise Connect Australia funding to facilitate a large scale state-wide commercial rollout.

He also intended to spread the word to the mainland.

"We are not saying that we will fly a plane over the country and spray fairy dust so that all of a sudden the whole country is BPL enabled, but we believe our model is a good way to deliver an alternative last-mile service and it is an important part of the telecommunications mix," he said.

"We want as many people as possible to get into this market as we think it is a great solution and we want to get cost of supply down, but we can't do that on our own."

Darwin said he has been very pleased with the uptake and response to the trial so far.

"The day after the launch we had about 1400 people sign up expressions of interest on our Web site. Unfortunately a lot of those people were out of state so we had to tell them we couldn't quite stretch our wires that far," he said.

"We've also had a lot of interest from utility companies in every other state and territory, as well as from New Zealand, Indonesia and Fiji. So our belief is that if we build the business model, others will follow."

By partnering with Aurora, Darwin said, ISPs and retailers would have increased opportunity to sell to other utilities.

"Utilities are interesting because they are very difficult to sell into. They are much more comfortable leveraging information across the industry, so we are trying to get as much information (about BPL) out there as possible.

One of the challenges Aurora faces along with any company operating in regional Australia, he said, is that only 40 percent of Tasmanians have PCs with Internet access.

"We are looking at a variety of ways to enter the market (as BPL offers services that have no need for a computer or PC). One of these is just simply through offering cheap IP phone calls without the need for a PC, but we are also assessing a couple of local partners to help us deliver IP TV," he said.

BPL will have an increasingly important role to play in the future digital home as vendors like Mitsubishi increasingly put BPL chips into various household appliances and equipment for remote management, according to Darwin.

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Dahna McConnachie

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