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Can Broadband Over Powerlines Deliver?

LONDON — A leading market researcher warned that broadband-over-powerline (BPL) communications may fail to compete against DSL and cable. Undeterred, corporate heavyweights are investing in the techology.

Google, Goldman Sachs and Hearst have invested in a major utility providing fast data access over AC power lines, and IBM is reported to be partnering with another utility to trial the technology.

Broadband analyst Melissa Yocom of IMS Research (Austin, Texas) said that with many BPL operators still working on trial deployments there's a large chance the technology may not make it off the ground.

WiMax fixed wireless broadband access, considered by many to be BPL's direct competitor for the underserved rural market, has the potential of beating BPL to market, Yocom said, especially in the U.S. where ratification of a universal BPL standard is still pending.

Europe is also pushing ahead with what is more commonly known there as 'power line communications'(PLC). Earlier this year The European Commission (EC) issued a recommendation to national telecommunications and utilities regulators to remove "any unjustified regulatory obstacles," especially from utilities, in order to open up the market for providing broadband over the power grid.

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