IBM on the BPL Bandwagon

Back in 2000, Sun Microsystems and other technology leaders happily jumped on stage with Enron executives to proclaim a brave new fiber world. IBM, and others are doing the same with BPL. According to NYTimes, IBM has established a partnership with CenterPoint Energy, a utlity based in Houston for a BPL service. This comes close on the heels of a Google-Goldman Sachs-Hearst (dis)investment in Current Communications, a BPL equipment provider. CenterPoint claims that is trials will use new equipment and new chips that triple the speed of the connections to 7 megabits per second. From last time I checked, the BPL trials were stuck in the 256 KBPS range, and that is when not many households were online. How things have changed to boost speeds to 7 megabit per second, I am not sure. Washington Post reports that one of the writers tested the service in city of Manassas. It topped out around 116 kbps before a repeater was installed outside the house. After that the speed went up to 200 kbps. These trials or many as they will come, will be a day late and dollar short. If and when commercial deployments do happen, the 7 mbps connections would seem asthmatic when compared to 20+ megabits/second on FTTx/FTTP/Cable connections. In the end like other over hyped technology, WiMAX, BPL will find a niche, and possibly lucrative role – of reading meters remotely and identifying network outages on the power grid in real time.

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