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Chapter 3. Residential Broadband Interne... > BROADBAND POWERLINE AREA NETWORKS

BROADBAND POWERLINE AREA NETWORKS

For many years, power companies have had the ambition to use electrical distribution networks for communications and data transfer. The first patent on technology for sending signals over powerlines was in 1899. However, a realistic technology for providing high-speed, two-way communications has until recently been just a dream of utilities. That dream is now becoming a reality. The idea is simple: The utilities'existing infrastructure of stout copper lines, long-distance cables, and in-house wiring has the potential to become a ubiquitous communications platform. Every electrical outlet in every building could become a port to the ultimate communications network. However, electrical grids do the job they were designed to do. They were not originally intended to transmit data.

Inherent characteristics of power networks confounding communications efforts include: low impedance, no specific topology, multitudes of fuses and circuit breakers, and transformers that scrub encoded signals from the voltage wave. Despite these problems, the energy industry insists on seeking a way to use the power grid as a broadband communications platform. The major advantage to power networks is that they are ubiquitous, and the largest capital outlay for any communications network is the network.


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