Utilities queue for the ‘electric’ Internet

Up to 40 utilities around the world could be providing Internet services on electricity lines by the end of the year. They will offer Internet services 10 times faster than ISDN the quickest now available to more than 200 million customers. Northern Telecom and United Utilities’ joint venture that developed the technology announced last week […]

Up to 40 utilities around the world could be providing Internet services on electricity lines by the end of the year. They will offer Internet services 10 times faster than ISDN the quickest now available to more than 200 million customers.

Northern Telecom and United Utilities’ joint venture that developed the technology announced last week that seven power and telecoms companies in Sweden, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Singapore had agreed to trials.

Robert Spaulding, director of media relations at Nortel, said these seven served more than 35 million homes. At least another 30 utilities were ‘queuing up’ to sign with Nor.Web DPL, the joint venture set up to develop and market the technology.

Spaulding said the trials would be small-scale, similar to those carried out in Manchester last year, but should take no more than 16 weeks to complete. After that, the utilities would look at full-scale deployment.

He said it was difficult to judge how much the service would cost because utilities would probably offer it as part of a consumer package. He said he would be surprised if it worked out at more than £20 £30 a month.

The Digital PowerLine system uses an interface at an electricity substation to tap off the signal from a fibre optic line and dispatch it along the local power transmission system to a data unit on the side of the subscriber’s house. This links it back into the domestic phone line via a modem. Unlike other Internet links, it is on-line 24 hours a day.

Spaulding said Nortel was already geared up to make millions of receiving units.

A big advantage of the technology is that it does not involve new cabling. ‘It’s a trenchless way of connecting homes,’ said Spaulding.