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Powerline Telecommunications: Mission Impossible?

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

Enikia, adds, "At their current stage, ONELINE AG [has] some very raw technology developed in the powerline access stage. We have a very defined home-networking product. There would be some shared intellectual property."

Healey says the company expects to deliver commercial chipsets in the first quarter of next year.

Chylinski explains chipsets technology by comparison to an interface card in a PC.

"In the motherboard of a PC or in a PC itself you may have a network interface card. Do you have a laptop? You have a card that gives you phone and land connectivity. If you open it up you will see a collection of chips," he explains.

"Chipsets is a grouping of chips that serve a specific function. Tomorrow, I want that card to be a powerline connection that will plug into a wall outlet rather than a structured wire connection. Chipsets is what sits on that card to enable that level of functionality and run a level of drivers and other software code to enable communication," Chylinski explains.

"The same principle is applied to the [distribution network outside the home]," he says. For example, "ADSL modem and cable chipsets are devices that control the communication."

Enikia sees PLT as a future aid to homeowners.

"Today electricity is a given when you flip the switch. Tomorrow, electricity and intelligence should travel the same way," he says.

Healey says the company already has overcome problems associated with noise and the economic differences posed by having different numbers of customers per transformer in Europe and the United States. He says the system is tailored to the requirements of the region in which it will be used.

"We connect the telecom to the power architecture at a different point to inject the signal. In the U.S., we can connect the telecoms network within the medium-voltage system so, in effect, we can see lots of [low-voltage] transformers. That makes the economics much better," he says.

Enikia also has developed methods for avoiding noise created in the home by appliances. That will allow applications such as Internet and telephony for the outside-distribution network, Healey says.

"Although we will be using the same type architecture, the capacity that we think we can generate off the network will probably much higher. Our noise-avoidance methods within our existing technology will allow us to be much more efficient in terms of bandwidth," Healey explains.

"[To be competitive], the access speeds would have to be compatible with cable modems and wireless. It will have to be somewhere between 10 and 20 megabits to compete," he says.

In addition, Healey believes that his technology avoids altogether the issue of increased radiation levels exhibited when using powerline technology: "We have developed technology to get around the problems of noise and problems of irradiation. I think we understand those issues better than anybody else.

"Noise avoidance is how we get around it. We have always worked to comply with FCC part 15. The outside is an unknown quantity. We are talking to the FCC. Powerline technology is very similar in design to