Nortel, the Canadian telecoms firm, has developed technology that will connect people to the Internet from their domestic electricity meters.
Users will be able to download Internet images at speeds of 1Mbit/sec, 10 times faster than ISDN, by plugging their computer into a small adapter.
It has long been known that radio frequency signals can be sent down electricity wires at low frequencies.
However, the vast amounts of information downloaded by the Internet need much higher frequencies than has been successfully achieved.
The problem is that low frequency electricity signals attenuate higher frequency signals, and this makes it impossible for them to carry broadband data.
Nortel and Norweb’s breakthrough has been to create a noise-free, high frequency signal that carries data at sufficient speeds.
Norweb found that despite the high frequency signal weakening, it did not disappear altogether.
The company then used Nortel’s expertise in strengthening weak signals in hostile environments to make the most of the signal, to the point where, it claims, it is noise free.
Norweb will transmit the signal by installing boxes at local transformers, where the electricity is low voltage. The boxes will send data signals down electricity cables so that home owners can access the Internet from their domestic power point.
To set up, the system needs an adapter at the meter, and a pc card to adapt the user’s computer.
First trial of the service will be with 200 users under one local substation. Thereafter, Nortel and new company Norweb Communications plan to roll out a nationwide service.