Guest post: Broadband over Power Lines -- dead and buried?

It wasn’t that long ago that broadband in Australia was considered to be 256Kbps and if you were lucky, 512Kbps or 1.5Mps! Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) had a decent business case, especially as it could theoretically deliver ridiculously fast speeds of 200Mbps over existing infrastructure.

With that in mind, trials bobbed up around Australia from Newcastle down to Queanbeyan and in to Hobart. But there were a few problems. One, the trials were largely conducted by electricity providers, so delivering Internet was not exactly their core strength or number one priority. The other was the resistance from the ham radio operators who claimed the signals off the power lines caused radio interference.

When the high profile two-year long TasTel BPL trial ended in November last year, it effectively signaled the end of BPL’s chances of gaining a foothold in the commercial access space.

So what’s taken BPL off the map?

According to David Kennedy, research director at Ovum, the growing availability of mobile broadband has had some effect. However, he thinks that the government's commitment to building an FTTN network is the main reason there is no discussion of the power line option right now.

The government’s National Broadband Network (NBN) won't be built for another four or five years yet. In the meantime, wireless keeps getting faster and more expansive. Telstra’s NextG, for example, can deliver speeds of 7.2Mbps with the right device. With faster speeds to come. And the next evolution of 3G, LTE or Long Term Evolution has already been demonstrated to deliver of speeds of 160Mbps. The target is for LTE to hit 1Gbps by 2013 — about the same time as the completed NBN, which has a minimum speed requirement of 12Mbps.

Where does this leave BPL? Buried is the answer. However, there is still a chance BPL will find another niche: inside the home. BPL technology has proven to be a handy way to network wired technologies through home and campuses. But so far, it too has been beaten to the punch by increasing wireless options.

Howard Dahdah is the producer for IDG Online.

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Howard Dahdah

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