Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

IBM Bringing Powerline Broadband Back?

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the faster-tubes dept.

The Internet 141

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.'"

cancel ×

141 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Elusive market. (2, Interesting)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Elusive market. (1, Offtopic)

turkeydance (1266624) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741217)

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:Elusive market. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25741575)

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 won't even connect you.

Re:Elusive market. (0, Redundant)

Khyber (864651) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741659)

"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.

Re:Elusive market. (1)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741901)

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

Re:Elusive market. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25742203)

I live 30 minutes (in a fantasy world where there is no traffic) south of Cincinnati. We've got DSL here that's exactly the same as what they get downtown.

No FiOS though. :(

Re:Elusive market. (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742417)

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

Re:Elusive market. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25745181)

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

Southeastern Memphis (Germantown and beyond) is the spendy, trendy suburbs; that's why you've got decent DSL service. Go the same distance west or south from downtown and its a completely different story.

Re:Elusive market. (3, Funny)

colourmyeyes (1028804) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742919)

Is that some anecdotal evidence? I LOVE anecdotal evidence!

Re:Elusive market. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25744829)

How is this redundant when it brings a counter-argument to the parent/gp/ggp?

Electoral College (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25741749)

Neither major candidate spent much time campaigning in NY, LA, or Houston during the general election. The electoral landslide was a result of the swing states, not the major population centers.

FWIW, 52% is the most we've seen since 1988, when Bush Sr. got 53.4% - and 426 electoral votes! What does any of this have to do with the "media market"?

Re:Electoral College (0, Offtopic)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742747)

Neither major candidate spent much time campaigning in NY, LA, or Houston during the general election. The electoral landslide was a result of the swing states, not the major population centers.
.

The swing states are important only as a counter to the major population centers.

Strip away McCain's electoral wins in Texas and Arizona and there is not much left other than the deep South and the depopulated Northern plains.

obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25740951)

Why others failed (3, Insightful)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25740965)

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.

Re:Why others failed (3, Insightful)

nebaz (453974) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741639)

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.

Re:Why others failed (1)

MilesAttacca (1016569) | more than 5 years ago | (#25746563)

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?

Re:Why others failed (5, Insightful)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741341)

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.

Re:Why others failed (1)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741697)

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.

Re:Why others failed (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741849)

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. :/

Re:Why others failed (1)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741909)

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

Re:Why others failed (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25743005)

And it's a wonder that they can get their noses unstuck from the ceiling ;)

Re:Why others failed (3, Interesting)

Adriax (746043) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why others failed (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25743387)

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!

Re:Why others failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25741781)

You don't even need to be that geographically remote. I have a family member that lives ~2 mi. away from people who can get cable and DSL, but because they are in an old neighborhood, the companies are not expanding there.

Re:Why others failed (1)

Skweetis (46377) | more than 5 years ago | (#25745707)

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 panel, which generates all the electricity I need, and I hate telephones anyway (though I'm at a high enough elevation that I could probably get cellular service if I cared to).

Re:Why others failed (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (3, Interesting)

renegadesx (977007) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why others failed (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741407)

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 done with 3G at all, but yeah, one of the problems has been that in rural areas, the specialty-broadband providers have you by the balls, and gouge accordingly. IMO this probably cuts into their profits over the long haul, as more people opt to do without rather than cough up an exhorbitant fee. They'd probably make more at standard prices, which everyone would see as equally affordable in that market.

My fixed wireless guy does that -- his pricing is about the same as DSL, so he even gets some metro customers who *have* DSL and cable available. This costs him very little, and makes him money he wouldn't otherwise get!

Is this new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25742081)

I remember hearing about this from some IBM guys two or three years ago... and with this exact same concept.

Re:Why others failed (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25741255)

Think about this for a 2nd. Have you ever bought a cheap solution from IBM???? Not me. Personally I feel sorry for the rural folks. This is gonna hurt if it takes off.

Re:Why others failed (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741617)

I don't mean to sound harsh but tough luck. If you choose to live in an area where it is not competitive to offer the same rates for internet service then you'll have to pay a premium. The government is already providing those areas with cheap power. If it weren't for government regulation then people in densely populated areas would be paying a hell of a lot less for electricity. There are tradeoffs in life, and living far away from urban locations might mean you have to pay more for certain services. Aren't the property savings more than enough to make up for this.

Re:Why others failed (1)

david@ecsd.com (45841) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742467)

Yeah! I say fuck those farmers who feed us! What have they ever done to deserve stuff?

After all they choose to live out in the sticks, driving their tractors around like they're so fucking cool. I bet those assholes expect things like color TV, too. Bastards!

Jesus, what a total douche bag.

Re:Why others failed (1, Interesting)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 5 years ago | (#25743255)

I never said I didn't appreciate them, but when I'm paying $800,000 for house on a third of an acre and over $100 a month for my cable, internet and phone I don't want to hear someone complaining about having to pay $200 a month for similar services but can live on 30 times as much land at half the cost or less. We all make our decisions and there are pluses and minuses to all of them.

Re:Why others failed (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742577)

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.

Re:Why others failed (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25743029)

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. :(

Hmm. (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741037)

I hope that the swaths of America that have sucktastic access to conventional infrastructure weren't planning on using ham radio for anything...

Re:Hmm. (3, Insightful)

yahooglesoft (1381239) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741093)

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.

Re:Hmm. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741291)

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:Hmm. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25741445)

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:Hmm. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25741533)

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:Hmm. (2, Insightful)

Mwongozi (176765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741541)

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.

Re:Hmm. (3, Insightful)

faedle (114018) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741649)

Internet access can be very easily filtered. HF, not so easy.

Although, Broadband-over-Powerlines seems to solve both problems. Put the communications over an easily controlled technology, while simultaneously "jamming" a not-so-easily controlled one.

Re:Hmm. (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741729)

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

Re:Hmm. (1)

nsaspook (20301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741925)

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]

Re:Hmm. (1)

bitrex (859228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742167)

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!

Re:Hmm. (1)

nsaspook (20301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25743083)

Watched a lot of TV Cubana when I worked the station at Key West. (They would broadcast uncut US movies on channel 6 at night) It was better than cable and free.

Recently declared extra-dead? (4, Interesting)

fprintf (82740) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741131)

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:Recently declared extra-dead? (2, Informative)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741393)

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.

Re:Recently declared extra-dead? (1)

fprintf (82740) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742085)

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 children... whose responsiblity does it become?

Re:Recently declared extra-dead? (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741759)

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 internet at the same time, it might be better to keep the bandwidth intact and distribute it over a municipal wireless network. so if only 50% of the population is using the internet at a time, each user would have twice the bandwidth as they'd have if everyone had a PLC modem in their house. and with speeds of up to 10 Mbps at a range of 6 miles, that's significantly faster than BPL modems, which top out at 2 Mbps.

Re:Recently declared extra-dead? (2, Informative)

atomicthumbs (824207) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742161)

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.

Re:Recently declared extra-dead? (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 5 years ago | (#25744963)

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).

Technical problems still exist, why not WiMax? (5, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741157)

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

Re:Technical problems still exist, why not WiMax? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741277)

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.

QRM (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741491)

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:Technical problems still exist, why not WiMax? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25741713)

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:Technical problems still exist, why not WiMax? (2, Interesting)

iammani (1392285) | more than 5 years ago | (#25743055)

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 presence of trees between the tower and our antenna greatly degrades the signal strength. (Microwaves are absorbed by water)

And latency would be yet another issue.

Re:Technical problems still exist, why not WiMax? (2, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#25743671)

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.

Re:Technical problems still exist, why not WiMax? (1)

Sinus0idal (546109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25744565)

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 interference from other operators. That said, when in good LoS they operate at up to 15Km plus, so 400m does sound odd unless your channel space is heavily congested/contested.

Power line ISP? (5, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Power line ISP? (1)

MikeBragg (981724) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741253)

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 the FCC, and ensure they don't act again, like they have for the past 5-8 years.

Re:Power line ISP? (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741389)

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?

Easy Scrambled Egg Machines Can Be Yours (1, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741409)

1. Defeat the interlock on the door of your microwave oven.
2. Insert head.
3. Push button.
Voila! Scrambled eggs!

Re:Easy Scrambled Egg Machines Can Be Yours (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741501)

You took the words right out of my mouth...

Re:Easy Scrambled Egg Machines Can Be Yours (2, Funny)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741565)

When would I profit though?

Re:Easy Scrambled Egg Machines Can Be Yours (1)

compwizrd (166184) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741977)

Your estate profits when they sue the microwave manufacturer for a defeatable interlock.

Re:Easy Scrambled Egg Machines Can Be Yours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25742053)

Its society's profit. Stop being greedy.

Re:Easy Scrambled Egg Machines Can Be Yours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25745569)

Only after ????

Re:Power line ISP? (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741433)

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.

Re:Power line ISP? (1)

sjwest (948274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741473)

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 towers cost money to maintain and in a low demand area why bother.

Poe works for us 'limited' as it is now. Shaking things up is good.

Re:Power line ISP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25746491)

You seem to be confusing broadband sent over powerlines, with power sent over "broadband lines" (CAT-5 or CAT-6 networking cable). BPL is transmitting information over lines used to carry electricity, long-distance. PoE is carrying small amounts of power, short-distance, over lines used to carry network traffic, to power small devices along the way.

Re:Power line ISP? (1)

SEE (7681) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741967)

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.

Re:Power line ISP? (1)

tcgroat (666085) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742533)

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.

The state-of-the-art power supply designs also use "spread-spectrum" clocks, to distribute the noise over as much bandwidth as possible. That reduces the power at any one frequency to ease the RFI filter requirements, but does so by moving noise power to what would have been quiet spots between the noise peaks of a fixed-frequency clock. In other words, the BPL system can't choose a quiet operating frequency, because there are none. See figure 3 of the previous example. At frequencies above 2MHz, the individual clock harmonics blur together. The emissions are 10dB or more below the legal limit at the peaks, but aren't very much lower between them. This is frequency spreading at work.

Now imagine such devices being attached to every light fixture in the house (modern CFLs and LED lamps both use switch-mode technology). Getting a signal from the utility system to a household outlet will become increasingly difficult. BPL is not a good fit for the modern household.

BuLlShIt (1, Troll)

Toll_Free (1295136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741211)

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 (4, Funny)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 5 years ago | (#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!

Re:BuLlShIt (1)

soundguy (415780) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742321)

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

I'll bet your house smells like old people

Great idea (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741251)

If you go in saying you won't compete with any of the traditional broadband providers you are likely to have a lot less trouble gaining licenses and that sort of thing. This goes for any country that's ruled by lobbyists. If you go in saying you want to destroy AT&T and Comcast you will have every legislator, regulator and special interest group going out of their way to make life hard for you.

BPL=DOA (5, Informative)

kd5sfk (1235808) | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

Re:BPL=DOA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25741693)

Power lines might be ok from the last transformer to the house. But everything else should be fiber.

I dont mean to be a poopie,.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25741377)

But wouldnt it just be cheaper to run fibre lines longside the existing power lines?

Cool... (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741481)

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:Cool... (2, Insightful)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741775)

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.

Re:Cool... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25745097)

Sooo ... you look forward to "getting away from it all" by going to your cabin in the wilderness and surfing the internet?

How about engaging your brain? It might be that limited use of internet access in your cabin would enable you to stay there for longer and more frequent periods.

Re:Cool... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25745507)

"Power has been an option we've been thinking about, but expensive.... powerline broadband would be pretty cool."

You have to have "power" before you can get "broadband over power"

IDIOTS - just use the rightsofway (1)

justdrew (706141) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741589)

just use the rightsofway and string a damn cable. it's not that damn hard or expensive. probably much less so than this cockamamie scheme.

Great!!!!! (2, Funny)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741677)

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

Rural Alberta is well served by wireless providers (2, Interesting)

TonyToews (1221386) | more than 5 years ago | (#25741951)

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.

BPL is an Expensive SCAM (1)

Ozoner (1406169) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742069)

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
legitimate services. Note that Emergency Services use H.F. because they have no alternative to reliable long-distance
communications.

High Noise Level: The Power lines are horrendously noisy. This high noise level (again) requires repeaters every few poles.

Poor Bandwidth: To prevent interference between repeaters, alternate line sections must use different frequency bands.
Because the H.F. band is less than 30 MHZ wide (especially when you avoid aircraft frequencies, etc). The available
bandwidth is hopelessly insufficient to provide a community with a broadband Internet service.

Latency: Because so many repeaters would be needed, the total latency makes the circuit unusable for services such as VOIP,
etc.

Cost: BPL requires a very large amount of very expensive line plant. It must be capable of withstanding direct lightening
strikes and can only be serviced by trained Line Staff. To work on the gear, the line usually has to be be shut down.
Because of the high costs, BPL is particularly unsuited to servicing rural areas.

The problem with powerline broadband (1)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742339)

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.

Elusive my butt. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742413)

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.

Works for Me! (2)

ashooner (834246) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742415)

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.

BPL is like sending water thru a soaker hose (1)

Tegucigalpa Ham (1405863) | more than 5 years ago | (#25742673)

BPL is not an efficient way to send and receive HF radio frequencies. sort of like sending water thru a soaker hose! A Rural network will interfere with many services including including Marine, Aircraft, Ham and rural fire departments still on the low VHF band. WiMax and WiFI like services with a fiber backbone might be more cost effective. Or CATV like coaxial cable backbone might be cost effective.

Still a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25742963)

There are a lot of ways of getting high speed internet to rural areas while not putting it over the power lines. Its bad enough killing AC hum out of just about everything. If they were willing to shield the power lines (COAX) then I'd say ok, otherwise, it was a really bad idea before, and just saying 'oh limited use' is still noisy, and as with all businesses, 'oh limited use' really means (as always, as in its always been this way) 'oh limited use....today'. Its like the US government saying 'oh the Manhattan Project and all of this nuclear stuff is just to end the war fast, after that we quit. No sparky, once the genie is out of the bottle, we go big and go hard. Keep it in the bottle. Use satellite, or microwave towers with wifi connection points. There are dozens of ways of getting high speed broadband to rural areas without killing the HF radio band (and all the peril it would bring to international shipping, airlines, etc.)

Hell yeah. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25743419)

Well, I'm a satellite customer in rural Wisconsin, and I'm ecstatic at the news of any possible break from being screwed in the ass by my satellite provider. Satellite companies take full advantage of the fact that rural customers have no other option if they want anything faster than dialup. I will be simply delighted to crawl out from under HughesNet.

If this ever even happens in my area.

I'm not gonna hold my breath, but this is very good news for me. I feel like dancing.

I'll nominate my electric coop to be the first... (1)

MrSnivvel (210105) | more than 5 years ago | (#25743647)

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 a dead zone, so no 3G or WiMax options.

It's past time! (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#25743981)

I for one, just got DSL several months ago. The phone company didn't want to give it to me - I am at the extreme distance from the hub. I'm paying for the lowest speed they offer, but they have given me a "free upgrade" because I am so far away. After the upgrade, my speeds can drop to as low as 1/2 the slow speed, up to almost the upgraded speed. Many of my neighbors STILL CAN'T GET broadband, at any price! Powerline transmission makes sense - the infrastructure is already in place! All that need be done, is set up the servers, sell some "modems", and the ISP's have millions of new customers! (yeah, I realize there is some finetuning to be done, but the point is, the infrastructure exists, now)

Good thought, too costly to implement. (1)

ACMENEWSLLC (940904) | more than 5 years ago | (#25746591)

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 electrical puzzle.

Where I live, we have a power loop. I don't know the technical term. There is a lot of construction here. There have been times that they have disconnected power flowing one way down the highway and it starts flowing from the other way because of this equipment. There is a momentary power outage. Your data traffic will have to be able to handle this too.

If you just look at power lines as a single big wire, it sounds good. But to make it actually work in a way that your Eve-Online players aren't going to bitch about drops and lag you have to invest a lot, bringing the price to cosumers up.

Metro WIFI sounds like a good idea too. Just drop a lot of AP's everywhere and free internet. It's just not that simple.

   

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>