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ABI Research sees challenges for broadband over power line and HomePlug/PLC

Posted: 21 Oct 2005     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:broadband  homeplug  broadband over powerline  abi  bpl 

Power line communications offer theoretical benefits to some consumers and some providers. But a new study from ABI Research shows that these are still infant technologies facing significant obstacles to success. Although on-going tests regarding transmitting data over electrical power lines are in progress, no large-scale deployments have been completed.

The modes available are broadband-over-power line (BPL), offering high-speed access via the electrical grid; and data transfer around the home. The latter comes in several regional flavors with different names including HomePlug and the more generic plc.

According to Vamsi Sistla, ABI Research's director of broadband research, "BPL does offer benefits to utilities including more efficient use of the electrical grid and better telemetry for tracking faults and failures. BPL therefore enjoys support from governments and regulators. Utilities, eyeing the opportunity to offer Internet access to their customers, are also enthusiastic."

However, serious bandwidth and radio interference issues remain, and would-be BPL vendors face stiff competition from incumbent DSL and cable networks. Sistla added that the best opportunities for BPL will be in regions with poor telecom infrastructure, where cable is too expensive and modest access speeds will suffice.

On the other hand, PLC developers are split into at least three technical camps. According to Sistla, "PLC's best markets may be in homes lacking Wi-Fi-ready devices, or where Wi-Fi isn't practical. The real momentum for non-homogeneous home networking providers comes from the consumer electronics vendors. Their role may help determine the future of PLC: the jury is still out."

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