Apparently BPL Isn't Quite Dead Yet

from the it-just-flinched! dept

For well over a decade, we've seen nothing useful come out of investments in broadband over powerlines. It's been a money-sucking pit that has rarely worked particularly well, and never found many customers. The biggest and most hyped-up experiments failed pretty miserably, and just last month it seemed like we could officially declare BPL dead. Apparently, IBM did not get that memo, as it just invested nearly $10 million in a BPL offering for rural customers. We give them props for their optimism in a technology that has been nothing but trouble for years, but unless they've come up with something radically different than all those failed projects, we expect to be reading a story in another year or two about this project shutting down as well.

Filed Under: bpl, broadband over powerlines
Companies: ibm


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  • identicon
    steph, 12 Nov 2008 @ 11:07pm

    It's not quite dead yet?

    it'll be stone dead in a moment....
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grbSQ6O6kbs

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2008 @ 1:16am

    It's good that IBM didn't get the memo. I see this effort as enterpreneurship at its best where somebody keeps trying and tinkering. There is a lot to be said about perseverance and persistence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 13 Nov 2008 @ 10:36am

      Re:

      It's good that IBM didn't get the memo. I see this effort as enterpreneurship at its best where somebody keeps trying and tinkering. There is a lot to be said about perseverance and persistence.

      There's also something to be said about repeatedly working on something that will fail.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2008 @ 7:02pm

        Re: Re:

        "There's also something to be said about repeatedly working on something that will fail"

        (1) Trying with different approach/angle/perspective is much different than repeat attempt with similar approach; and (2) I don't have an inside knowledge on what IBM plans to do - but saying that they WILL fail is a bit strong. Nothing is certain.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2008 @ 1:17am

    It's good that IBM didn't get the memo. I see this effort as enterpreneurship at its best where somebody keeps trying and tinkering. There is a lot to be said about perseverance and persistence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2008 @ 5:08am

      Re:

      Very relevant point here. Just look at the digital photography field. Everyone went with the CCD sensor and Canon stuck with CMOS. Most everyone thought CCD was superior and CMOS was at the end of its technological rope. Well, I guess Nikon finally admitted defeat and is now building CMOS cameras.

      Will BPL turn out the same way? Maybe not, but you never know until you try.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mike allen, 13 Nov 2008 @ 2:16am

    pity nobody told IBM

    This idea is useless it causes more problems than it solves i would never take it up. I really cant understand how anyone could connect a computer modem almost directly to mains voltage not to mention the RF interference it causes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    chris (profile), 13 Nov 2008 @ 6:22am

    $10 mil from IBM

    that sounds like a lot of money, but it's not for IBM.

    they probably found $20 mil in the couch cushions in one of the executive suites.

    i hope that BPL and wimax can actually deliver competition to telco and cable broadband. residential broadband is a market in serious need of competitors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dennis Gorelik, 13 Nov 2008 @ 7:39am

    Internet access over power-lines got some traction in Moscow, but eventually "Power Line Communications" Internet Provider gave up and sold their business to another Internet provider that uses Ethernet.

    This is relevant article in Russian:
    http://www.e-xecutive.ru/news/news/845545/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    moe, 13 Nov 2008 @ 7:42am

    BPL innovations?

    In the article I read, the new startup has made some innovations over the previous technology. So when you say, "they've come up with something radically different than all those failed projects" -- maybe they did just that.

    I don't ever envision BPL taking over Fiber/DSL/Cable, but it's got to be viable for those areas that aren't already serviced by broadband.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Siafu, 13 Nov 2008 @ 9:28am

    I have been working with this technology for about 5 monthes now (albeit in a slightly different application), and can personally attest to the unreliability of such systems. In theory (from a technical standpoint, not necessarily an economical standpoint) it seems like a legitimate solution, but in practice if falls flat on it's face. The biggest issues with this tech is dealing with noise on the powerline and the distance from endpoint to endpoint (more distance = less speed, unless you say to hell with connection reliability).

    To #5: There is not a direct link between the computer and the main line through a modem like this (e.g. you aren't just shoving two wires from your wall socket to your computer modem, though you can if you like!). Also, any credible piece of equipment has built in isolation.

    Nothing beats a dedicated line.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 13 Nov 2008 @ 10:24am

    All Over The Map

    Here goes a comment where I'll go all over the map.

    I agree with Mike. BPL has, and probably always will, suck. It has been a boondoggle with FCC support for far too long.

    I agree with comment #3 that says that, despite sucking, it's good that some contrarians are pushing on. People said CDMA cellular wouldn't work, the sound barrier couldn't be crossed, and that man couldn't fly. I think we're better off that some would not listen to prevailing wisdom. Let them try, even though they will likely fail.

    And regarding comment #5, you don't seem to understand BPL. You don't plug a modem into the mains (wall plug). The Internet signal carried by the high-voltage lines into neighborhoods can't survive the step-down voltage converters. This is one of the weaknesses of BPL: every time the voltage steps down, the Internet signal must be taken out prior, and re-inserted after. In a neighborhood level, they take the signal out, and usually try to use Wi-Fi or some other last 200 yards solution (Wi-Fi has been popular). Of course, the net result is that BPL is a combination of "hops" across multiple dubious technologies. This doesn't compare well to the simplicity of cable or DSL with a wire from your home straight to the CO.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    another mike, 13 Nov 2008 @ 4:05pm

    bpl, futility, and other sisyphean efforts

    on the other side of this is power over ethernet. where's that one, huh?

    we were going to do away with all the wall-warts and all our home and office networking gear, modems, routers, switches, print servers, etc., would power themselves off a POE injector instead of having to dedicate a power strip just to run the kit.

    or wireless power. that was going to be how all your small appliances ran. a special platter mounted under a counter-top and just put the blender, can opener, toaster, even cell phones and other electronic devices, over the panel and it had power.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    eh?, 14 Jan 2009 @ 4:31pm

    Bad publicity...

    It seems like no one gives BPL a chance. I have used BPL and found it to be as good as cable, but the upload speeds weren't capped so... better. The cable and dsl companies don't really want affordable competition. They probably thought to themselves, "Hmm wow this looks bad for us, what should we do? Oh! I've got it! Let's post trash and false reports about how bad BPL is - EVERYWHERE!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Luke, 17 Apr 2009 @ 10:06am

    Broadband over power line

    I simply want to call attention to the real issues here. PLC/BPL, Smart Grid, triple-play, etc., etc., are all efforts to provide strong value added capabilities to the cost of service of electricity, high-speed internet, and wireless interconnectivity.

    Edison struggled with everything from a better filament light bulb to Dynamos, direct current (DC) that were far from efficient, yet everybody saw the basic value proposition like with BPL.

    Tesla came along and showed Edison a novel new approach to electricity generation and transmission. Alternating Current (AC), turned out to be the solution to many of the problems that Edison, et al., couldn't comprehend. Remember, Nichola Tesla, did not have a formal education nor did he subscribe to the then current day opinions of his peers. Obviously, he (Tesla) was very helpful to the electric power industry and it's emergence to the use of today.

    The same old approach to data transmission, i.e., voltage modulation will eventually tire and new materials and electronic modulation approaches will take shape.

    The most difficult thing really, is to have a non-biased debate where cable, telecoms, and electric-co's special interest's, are at least leveled on the playing field with the human family's needs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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