Are consumer broadband over powerline (BPL) services enough to make the business case for utilities?
Karen George is a principal at Primen Inc., a subsidiary of EPRI. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was based in part on research conducted for an EPRI White Paper, Broadband Over Powerline 2004: Technology and Prospects, co-authored by Clark Gellings and Karen George. Obtain a copy of the white paper here.
After years of development, technology to deliver high-speed data over the existing electric power delivery network has emerged in the marketplace. In some sections of Cincinnati and Manassas, Va., consumers now have an alternative to DSL and cable for broadband Internet access. It's real and it works.
The technology is viable, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued new rules for mitigating potential radio interference from broadband-over-powerline (BPL) systems, and the first commercial-scale BPL networks are being built out. But is it a good business bet?
This is a key question for utility executives, and like many business-case questions, the answer is: It depends. At least that's what the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and its market intelligence subsidiary, Primen, found in a recent examination of the current status of the BPL market.
"Internet access for consumers has been the focus of initial BPL deployments, but what we think is likely to make or break the business case in the long run is the bundle of broadband services that can be offered, and the ability to use BPL as a communications platform for utility applications," says Clark Gellings, vice president for innovation at EPRI.