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What is Broadband over Powerline?

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  • Written By: David White
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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Sometimes, technology moves backward. Such is the case with Broadband over Powerline, a technology which allows people to access the Internet by plugging a special modem into an electrical outlet. In a sense, the electric company becomes the Internet Service Provider (ISP). In this way, consumers can have a third option for getting Internet access, in addition to cable and DSL.

Specifically, Broadband over Powerline transmits Internet service via radio waves over electrical lines. Unfortunately for ham radio operators, these Internet transmissions access many of the same frequencies that are traditionally used for ham radio. Broadband over Powerline utilizes these frequencies because they are generally low wavelength and require little power, but still deliver the same high-quality broadband services that consumers can get from cable and DSL sources.

Interference of ham radio transmissions with Internet transmissions and vice versa can be problematic for both sides. Broadband over Powerline could be delivered at higher radio frequencies, but the costs would necessarily rise, making it a less attractive alternative to cable or DSL. It's not just ham radio that is a potential stumbling block: Government agencies, public safety entities, military and maritime operations use short-wave frequencies as well, raising the possible incidences of interference on both ends.

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Broadband over Powerline has one thing going for it: The wiring already exists in the house or the business. You don't need new phone lines or cable wiring installed because the Internet signals travel over existing power lines. Costs related to DSL or cable are, therefore, avoided.

Broadband over Powerline is not currently available everywhere. According to an agreement with the U.S. Government, Broadband over Powerline is being tested in select areas across the country. Testing is expected to go on for the next several years. It is also likely that technological advances made during the testing period will eliminate some of the problems that Broadband over Powerline now faces.

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