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Broadband Over Power Line Gets Surge From Standard

Broadband over Power Line is expected to get a new lease on life after the IEEE ratified a new standard on Monday. As a result, the technology could move more aggressively into smart energy, transportation and local-area network applications.

The IEEE 1901 standard establishes standard data rates in excess of 500 Mbps in LAN applications, promising to open up a new era in delivering audio visual apps in transportation (airplanes, trains cars, etc.) as well as to connect wireless devices in homes and businesses.

“There is a huge potential in Smart Grid applications,” said Jean-Philippe Faure, chair of the 1901 Working Group, in an e-mail. “Today, the pilot projects mostly used low-data-rate communication solutions, but IEEE 1901 is developed to support the quantity of information and response time that will be necessary to manage an effective smart grid.”

Faure added that 1901 is expected to benefit companies with a stake in smart grids, including utilities, service providers and consumer electronics companies.

The new standard is also designed to help spur the growth of BPL in home applications. “BPL technology is doing very well in the home,” he said. “It is very successful in the IP TV market. … 1901 BPL modems are used as LAN extensions between the DSL/cable modems and the TV IP (boxes). BPL is also used to extend coverage and performance of WiFi networks.”

Noting that DSL and cable modems are normally not placed close to TVs in the home, Faure said that an in-home or in-building 1901 BPL LAN enables connection of multiple Wi-Fi access points in homes and buildings.

In transportation, the 1901 standard should help deliver A/V entertainment to passengers in aircraft, trains, and other mass transit vehicles. While electric vehicles are charging overnight, entertainment playlists could be downloaded.

Earlier attempts to use BPL over utility power lines to deliver broadband to users generally failed, and several projects were shut down. Competition from existing providers, such as cable companies, impacted earlier BPL efforts, and ham radio operators complained that the technology interfered with their transmissions.

More than 94 corporations, trade associations, and universities contributed to the development of the new standard, the IEEE said.