Broadband through Gas, Seriously

For starters, guys I would like to say, that I am not making this up. A San Diego-start-up, Nethercomm Corp., which has no trial partners or no known venture capital backers, is promising that it can deliver up to 10 gigabits per second broadband using natural gas pipelines.

The idea here is to encode the broadband signals using ultra wideband and beam them through the pipeline, and then at the gas meter, the signal is offloaded (using Nethercomm equipment off course) to on-the-premise wireline or wireless networks. The company, which lists Patrick and Ann Munally as co-founders, thinks this is a neat work around the current restrictions on the UWB for now. Since the wireless transmitters are in the pipeline, it is a closed environment. The company explains that its technology needs no modifications to the existing natural gas distribution infrastructures.

Still, I find the whole concept a little baffling. The biggest concern is UWB itself. I understand this as a short-range technology, which can deliver great speeds. Here is what wikipedia has to say about UWB.

Ultra-wideband or UWB is a developing communication technology that delivers very high-speed network data exchange rates across relatively short distances with a low power source. Although the connection speed decreases quickly as a function of distance, UWB has the potential to replace the cables that currently connect devices.

If that is the case, then it means that a substantial number of UWB modules would need to embedded in a pipeline, and that could make the project a tad expensive. In other words, it would need some serious dollar commitment from gas companies. For instance installing the hardware inside the pipes would entail shutting off gas supplies. That alone could be a cost prohibitive affair. In addition, the energy companies are still recovering from their ill-conceived affair with fiber and broadband networks, led by the king-con of them all, Enron. Ann Nunally, President and COO of the San Diego-based Nethercomm Corporation in a press statement was quick to say, that they “have been extremely tight-lipped about this innovation until our Patent Portfolio foundation was completely in place.”

Having said that, energy and gas companies use wireless sensors for meter readings and monitoring the health of the pipelines.

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