Dr Ismat Quttaineh
Murtada Halabi
Issue: EMEA 2007
Article no.: 16
Topic: Broadband over power lines, BPL
Author: Dr Ismat Quttaineh and Murtada Halabi
Title: (Dr Ismat Quttaineh) Managing Director and CEO, and (Murtada Halabi), Manager, Marketing and Business development
Organisation: Kuwait National Telecom Co.
PDF size: 212KB

About author

Dr Ismat Quttaineh is the founder, CEO and Managing Director of Kuwait National Telecom Company, KNTC. He has guided the company since its inception. In his professional career, Dr Quttaineh progressed from a Transmission Engineer within the Ministry of Information Kuwait, to acting Head of TV transmission, to Head of Telecom Department. He then moved to the private sector and managed several large operations before establishing KNTC. Dr Quttaineh is a member of the Kuwait Society of Engineers, Kuwait Graduate Association and serves as Engineering Arbitrator for the Kuwait Ministry of Justice. Dr Quttaineh is also a member of the International Whoís Who Historical Society. Dr Quttaineh obtained his BSc (Electrical & Electronics Engineering) from Plymouth University, UK and later his PhD (Telecommunications and Electronics) from Kennedy University, USA.

Mr Murtada Halabi is the Manager of Marketing and Business development at Kuwait National Telecom Company, KNTC. Mr Halabi joined KNTC to help set its future strategies and expand its business. His experience includes ten years with an electro/mechanical company in Kuwait as Commercial Manager and 15 years with his own business in real-estate development in Canada. Mr Murtada Halabi graduated from California State University, Long Beach, USA with a BSc (Electrical Engineering) and an MBA.


Article abstract

BPL, broadband over power line, is emerging as an alternative to some traditional broadband technologies, especially in regions where traditional telecom wireline infrastructure is lacking. BPLís main advantage is the low cost of rollout. Since it uses the existing power grid with its extensive end-user connectivity, investment is needed mainly for the sub-stations and relatively low-cost customer premise equipment. Among BPLís limitations are its inherent lack of security, contention among users for bandwidth, and the radio frequency interference it generates.


Full Article

BPL is a technology in the very early stages of adoption. For several years, many have hoped that the technology, called broadband over power lines, or BPL, would allow electric companies to become a viable third alternative to the cable and telephone companies providing high-speed access to the Internet. Technical limitations and a bad habit of interfering with local amateur and emergency radios, however, have made BPL a tantalizing near miss for the tech industry. People have been experimenting with building communication networks over power lines since the 1950s, but the technology has never seriously caught on due to its low speed, low functionality and high development cost. In recent years, new modulation techniques supported by other technological advances have helped BPL evolve. BPL increases competition in broadband services and provides broadband services in towns not currently serviced by the existing providers at low start-up costs. With many of the technical issues ironed out, BPL is slowly being deployed. It will be able to handle high-speed data services, along with voice over IP, VoIP, services. The major BPL drawback is the difficulty they have bundling their services. Cable, satellite and phone companies are going after the triple-play (voice, video and data) market, with a package of telephony, television and high-speed data services. While itís not inconceivable that power companies will try to bundle other services with their broadband access, critics say it will be a stretch. BPL would benefit the implementation of e-government, as it would be feasible to provide an Internet connection in every home. Still, some analysts say it will be difficult for BPL to make any significant gains against the cable and phone companies, which have a big lead both in terms of subscribers and mind share. Power line communications Power Line Communications, PLC, or BPL allows transmission of data over power lines. Power line communications use the RF, radio frequency, signal sent over medium and low voltage AC power lines to allow end users to connect to the Internet. The RF signal is modulated with digital information and converted by an interface in the home or small business into Ethernet compatible data. PLC into the home There are two means of getting broadband into the home from the electrical pole. One method is to use a wireless device located on the power line to broadcast a radio signal containing the data with a receiver located in the home. This method allows in-home PLC to be used to network machines such as printersí PCs and other PLC-enabled devices. This is a useful set-up but there are problems since wireless is an insecure technology The alternative is to allow the PLC frequencies to either skip around or pass through the transformer and continue onto the home allowing any devices with PLC connections to be plugged in anywhere in the home. The data is sent via the LV lines between the transformer and the home. It will be possible to have devices such as home entertainment systems and other household appliances placed on this data network, and allow services such as viewing streamed media and web browsing from televisions. We expect that services such as VoIP will be offered, allowing this technology to compete not only with ISPs, Internet service providers, but also with existing operating companies. There are a number of technologies currently available in the market offering last mile broadband connectivity. Power line communications is now beginning to emerge as a significant competitor to the technologies such as DSL and cable modems. PLC advantages Power line communications opens up many new applications and customer service business opportunities for both the telecom and electricity sectors. There are many strong, unique reasons why BPL will become a very important element in the future of broadband communications. Power line communications offer many advantages for both service providers and, more importantly, end users alike. These are the advantages of BPL for service providers: ï A major selling point for the development of PLC for utility companies is that most of the infrastructure is already in place – BPL uses the existing power grid. This results in low-cost PLC rollout. Only the substation server equipment and customer premise units need to be installed to establish a digital power line network. ï Another important aspect to consider for providers is that of coverage. The power grid is everywhere. The low voltage power grid is a network infrastructure already linked to millions of residences and businesses. The power grid has the greatest end-user connectivity that exists today. PLC can even reach customers that have no other utilities except for power. These are the advantages of PLC for the end-users: ï The equipment needed to set-up PLC in the home is cheaper on average than that of other broadband solutions such as DSL and cable modem, usually costing, depending on the equipment, between US$45 up to US$75. ï The equipment uses existing power outlets in the home, making it a lot easier to set up. As the equipment is ëplug-and-playí, it is also very simple to set up. There is no need for complicated wiring and additional installations. It is possible to move your computers and appliances to wherever you want them. ï Power line communications, with speeds of up to 14Mbps, outperforms its competitors. ï For users in rural areas, who cannot receive DSL or cable modem services, PLC can provide an all-in-one service with telephone, cable television, distance learning and high-speed data. PLC limitations PLC has a number of technical and economic limitations at the moment. Sharing Each sub-station requires a backbone connection to provide customers with significant data rates. However, the bandwidth available at the sub-station must be shared among the homes or premises connected to it. This means there will be contention for the available bandwidth. Like DSL, BPL is a contention-based service; the level of contention depends upon the number of customers connected to the sub-station and the number of customers using the service at any given moment. Distances Like DSL, BPL is distance limited. The distance between the customerís home and the supplying sub-station is a factor in the bit rate available to the user. Cost As with all broadband technologies that require high-capacity backbones, the cost of providing these connections is high. Competition Competition will limit the development of BPL. To be successful, a technology must become profitable within a reasonably short period – roughly 2-5 years. Competition from providers such as DSL and Cable ISPs will be intense in areas where one or both of these technologies is already available. BPL will have to demonstrate significant advantages, such as low price and easy, plug-it-in in-anywhere-in-the-home, inexpensive installation. Security Both designers and consumers may have concerns about the security of BPL. Power cables are not twisted and use no shielding which means power lines produce a fair amount of EMI, electromagnetic interference. EMI radio receivers can easily receive EMI. Thus encryption must be used to prevent the interception of sensitive data by unauthorized personnel. Government regulation Government regulatory agencies in many parts of the world tightly regulate the radio frequency interference and technologies that produce EMI. The future of PLC Broadband over power lines has the potential to be the next big broadband technology. The following factors will determine whether BPL will succeed in the broadband market. ï Standardisation of BPL technology is needed to allow better deployment of BPL equipment and reduce costs. ï Cost of BPL needs to become more competitive in the broadband market. ï Interference issues need to be resolved to prevent conflicts of interest with government regulators and radio frequency users. ï Extensive, high-level marketing of BPL is needed to raise consumer awareness of this technology.