Can the power grid be used to deliver high-speed Internet? This is the focus of a WSJ story. The technology is being deployed on a small scale in Europe and the US. The benefit is that the delivery infrastructure is already in place: “It’s cheaper and quicker to deploy than DSL or cable, partly because the electrical wires that carry the communications signals are already in place everywhere.” Here is how it works:
A powerline communications subscriber could receive high-speed Internet access through any electrical outlet. A modem in the substation – which is a distribution hub for electricity – converts digital signals into analog. These signals pass along the unused higher-frequency spectrum on power lines. The line connects to an Internet backbone, such as those owned by WorldCom’s UUNet, AT&T Corp. or Sprint Corp. That connection is either through a line leased from the local phone carrier or through a fiber link owned by the utility.
The question of how to safely push the communications signal safely through a transformer, which steps down electrical current so it is safe for the home, has been one of the impediments to powerline communications over the last several years. The transformer generally causes the signal to lose half its content or become distorted.
Amperion, based in Chelmsford, Mass., has developed a system that uses wireless technology for the broadband connection from the power line to the home. Amperion makes devices that bypass the transformer and convert the signal to a wireless fidelity, or wi-fi, signal, then beam it to a receiver in the home. The customer would purchase the receiver.