Broadband over powerline (BPL) technology: Is it a competitor to cable? A source of signal interference? Or a possible collaborator? As noted in last week’s issue of CT’s Pipeline, the emerging BPL industry, which gathered at an event last week ago in Charlotte, NC, someday may emerge as a full-blown competitive threat. But the concern today among cable technologists—especially those who are also amateur (aka ham) radio operators—rather involves the radiated interference that has been associated with some BPL trials and deployments. The National Association for Amateur Radio (ARRL) itself has been particularly vigilant on BPL, as this site indicates. “Power lines are one giant ring crack,” says Ed Hare, ARRL’s laboratory manager. “They have no balance, no shielding … but they have a higher permitted emissions level than the cable industry.” It may be a double standard, but whether such emissions from a broadband-enabled power grid find their way into cable’s upstream path is the critical point. “Everything that keeps (cable signals) in, keeps them out,” Hare says. In-building friends On the outside plant, cable and BPL will at best find a way to coexist. They’ll have to, given their physical proximity on strung lines. Once you enter a home or building, however, the opportunity for actual collaboration opens up. This is nothing new. The cable industry’s interest in home electrical wiring as an alternative, in-home networking platform is well established. Case in point: The HomePlug Powerline Alliance lists Mark Francisco, director of engineering in Comcast New Media Development, as an officer on its board of directors. One company with a slightly different twist on this theme is Telkonet, a seven-year-old company focused on delivering a HomePlug-type technology optimized for the commercial and government markets. A recent boast is the approval by the Department of Navy and Electronic Data Systems (EDS) of Telkonet’s iWire System as FIPS 140-2 government-certified. Telkonet is also working with cable. “A cable operator did purchase our (system) to do two hotels in Texas,” says Sandeep Thakrar, VP strategic accounts. “They’re testing it.” A rapid deployment announced this summer on the Queen Mary, an ocean liner re-fitted as a hotel, museum and meeting site, underscores the company’s ability to serve the hospitality market. Thakrar says a 14 Mbps Intellon chipset currently yields a 6-7 Mbps throughput, but that next year the company will adopt Intellon’s 200 Mbps chipset, with corresponding increases in speed. Leveraging an installed infrastructure with multiple outlets provides several benefits. “You have the security and reliability of wires, but you do have some mobility, as well,” Thakrar says. Jonathan Tombes

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