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Powerline Telecommunications: Mission Impossible?

PLT: History of Developments and Debacles
Fortnightly Magazine - July 1 2000

ADSL technologies."

Healey adds, "Irradiation is more difficult in twisted pairs than it is in power networks because the properties of the cable. The FCC has had to deal with the problems of irradiation with DSL. I think we have much better techniques that are going to make sure that irradiation levels are kept to a minimum." -R.S.

BG&E and AEP: Just Looking? "Most utilities are in a wait-and-see mode," says Wayne Cooper, director of business development at Baltimore Gas & Electric. "We think that the technology has a lot of potential, but there are a lot of technical hurdles to overcome."

Although Cooper keeps up with advances in PLT technology, he says none of the current offerings has been proven to work in commercial systems in North America. He notes that companies such as Media Fusion and Dynamic Telecommunications claim major breakthroughs. (See sidebar,"MediaFusion: Real Science or Science Fiction?)


Media Fusion: Real Science or Science Fiction?

Co-founder and chief scientist Luke Stewart answers his critics.

Dallas-based startup Media Fusion in the last year has generated much enthusiasm in the utilities industry with its claims of having solved the technological hurdles to making powerline telecommunications a reality. But that was before last November, when Media Fusion was issued U.S. Patent No. 5,982,276, say analysts.

Enthusiasm since has been replaced with uncertainty, doubt, or plain skepticism of the new technology, according to some industry engineers and experts at the Federal Communications Commission. Although those experts will not go so far as saying Media Fusion's proposed technology is unworkable, they express deep reservations about some assumptions in the patent that they say defy the laws of physics. They add that Media Fusion's technology is an extreme departure from other developments in PLT technology.

The technology behind Media Fusion's patent centers on naturally occurring magnetic waves surrounding electrical powerlines, according to press materials from the company. The company claims it uses those magnetic waves to solve problems with line noise, electrical load imbalances, and transformer interference that have hindered past efforts in powerline communications.

Is Media Fusion's development nothing more than bunk aimed at enticing utilities to invest millions in the company, or is the technology so far ahead of its time that few if any outside Media Fusion understand it?

To set the record straight, William "Luke" Stewart, Media Fusion's co-founder, chairman, and chief scientist, answers his critics in an interview with the Fortnightly.

Who are your strategic partners?

I can't really go into the names. I can say this: They are large computing companies that do a great deal of special-effects work and have very, very good sophistication in unique processing environments. These companies are well-renowned. They are basically the foundation of many of the advanced technology studies that are done by the government and by various agencies. They are very strong in the computing and software industry. …

What are your computer specifications?

We needed servers that could handle about two-and-a-half trillion bits per second through their bus speed in order to clock our microwave emitter. If you can't gate and