Another $130 Million for Current Comm


As part of the on-going trend of big money VC rounds, broadband-over-wireline company, Current Communications raised another $130 million, this time from General Electric, TXU and Sensus Metering Systems. The company in 2005 had received about $100 million from Google, Earthlink and Goldman Sachs.

The latest funding news was dug-up by Wired News. Current, currently provides BPL in Cincinnati and is working with TXU to provide similar service in Dallas. The company is also bidding for advanced wireless spectrum as part of a consortium called, Pop Wireless.

Broadband over Powerline is a technology that allows consumers to connect to the internet by plugging a special modem into their electric outlet, which is part of a power company’s IP network. FCC has seen BPL as the third pipe into the home, though, that has still remained more hope than reality. We have been skeptical of BPL for a while, and that position hasn’t changed. Despite raising hundreds of millions, companies like Current have still not gained any meaningful traction in the marketplace.


Jesse Kopelman

I’m pretty familiar with this stuff and agree 100% with Jay. As for the control network stuff, that is not BPL. Remember the B stands for broadband. You don’t need broadband speeds for control networks — 1 kbps is plenty. Current BPL technology can deliver 1 kbps, but can it even do that economically? Even if it can, it has a long way to go before the B is justified. Now Cincinnati is working fine and all and at broadband speeds, but I don’t think anybody is bold enough to claim that network was built at anywhere near the price of anyother established technology or that it has the headroom to be competative with ADSL2.

BPL is like LEO satellite service — I wouldn’t say there is no hope that it will become economically viable, but it is still likely decades away.


Hey Daniel,

You’re right that dedicated (often proprietary) networks can be very pricey. But BPL is still more expensive. The Great Hope is that utilities and SPs can squeeze more value out of a broadband network – enabling applications beyond automated meter reading that require more bandwidth. Residential Internet access is just one of those applications, and one that has diminishing value over time.

Reliability of BPL, even at small scale, is questionable. Things like better AFEs, fine-grained adaptive power controls and software defined RF filters are parts of the potential solution, but so far no one is building reliable solutions that both perform and comply with FCC part 15(g), which went into full effect earlier this month.

This is first hand knowledge, BTW :-).

Daniel Golding

Om, one important thing has changed about Current’s strategy – they are now selling the product as much as a process control network as a broadband service. All of those who have ever worked for an electrical utility know how much effort goes into a seemingly simple task: meter reading. With BPL, things like meter reading and monitoring of remote substations become much easier. While its easy to assume that a solution like BPL would be more expensive than other methods, that is likely incorrect – dedicated process control and monitoring networks are very pricy. For a utility to be able to do BPL to a wireless box on a pole, then wirelessly read meters is like nervana. This is the TXU value proposition. The broadband side is just a nice benefit and, as mentioned above, will be run in parallel.

Om Malik

hey jay,

thanks for pointing that out. i might have to dig a little deeper. i need to have a chat with current.


Hey Om-

Traffic on access BPL networks won’t necessarily (should they ever actually happen) be part of a power company’s IP network.

In Current’s case, for instance, they’re essentially leasing the wires and selling application services back to the power company. Earthlink is going to provide retail ISP services through some sort of wholesale agreement. The power company becomes a lessor and a customer of the lessee.

I remember all sorts of companies from a few years ago whose true talents were in raising capital, rather than innovation and execution. Apparently that trend continues.

Comments are closed.