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Powerline networks go live in July

Using electricity powerlines as a medium for network traffic is an idea that has flickered dimly over the years, but is to see...

Using electricity powerlines as a medium for network traffic is an idea that has flickered dimly over the years, but is to see the light of day again in Germany in July, writes Antony Adshead.

The country's largest power utility RWE is to offer commercial services in conjunction with Swiss modem manufacturer Ascom in the Ruhr area on a pilot basis. The companies are promising bandwidth of up to 3mbps.

Powerline technology carries communication signals by utilising a carrier frequency for data. The local shared transformer is connected to the backbone and a network termination point is installed in the customer's electricity meter.

Problems in the past have included the high cost of connecting to the backbone and electricity use causing interference with the communications signal. Despite the problems, some have seen the opportunity to use powerline technology for smaller network applications, such as at Lan level.

The technology was attempted in the UK in a joint venture between Nortel and North West Electricity, but it was wound up in 1999 because demand for commercial access was deemed insufficient.

Ascom says that it believes it can break even with the service in three years.
This was first published in May 2001

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