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AT&T Businesses Communications Network Power Wireless Networking

AT&T Begins Testing High-Speed Internet Over Power Lines (reuters.com) 119

AT&T has started trials to deliver high-speed internet over power lines. The company announced the news on Wednesday and said that trials have started in Georgia state and a non-U.S. location. Reuters reports: AT&T aims to eventually deliver speeds faster than the 1 gigabit per second consumers can currently get through fiber internet service using high-frequency airwaves that travel along power lines. While the Georgia trial is in a rural area, the service could potentially be deployed in suburbs and cities, the company said in a statement. AT&T said it had no timeline for commercial deployment and that it would look to expand trials as it develops the technology.

"We think this product is eventually one that could actually serve anywhere near a power line," said Marachel Knight, AT&T's senior vice president of wireless network architecture and design, in an interview. She added that AT&T chose an international trial location in part because the market opportunity extends beyond the United States.

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AT&T Begins Testing High-Speed Internet Over Power Lines

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  • Ham radio. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @06:38PM (#55734775)

    Ham radio interference problem solved?

    Or do we have to pay to fund for emergency communications now/screw Ham?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I didn't know that 'airwaves' could travel over powerlines. Maybe just the high frequency ones described in the summary? That's a hell of a breakthrough.
      • by zlives ( 2009072 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @06:42PM (#55734815)

        it could be that they are using wet string between cables as well.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Its the RF radiated by unshielded power lines that is the noise issue.

        Broadband over Power Line (BPL) test from 10yrs ago in Tasmainia
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdcY0Eetvsw

        BPL is much like the Net Neutrality battle, it gets knocked down, then crops up again later hoping we have forgotten about it...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        As well as Power over Ethernet have been solved problems for at least 10-15 years.

        The title option is waveguided maser transmission of digital signals over powerline, essentially the same as cable TV only using power lines instead of coax. The issues with it include radiated energy from long distance power lines (which as a result of the length of the lines can act like HUGE miles spanning antennas), the inability to hop transformers (meaning you need hardware at every transformer in order to continue commu

      • I didn't know that 'airwaves' could travel over powerlines. Maybe just the high frequency ones described in the summary? That's a hell of a breakthrough.

        Don't go slamming the ham radio.

      • you got it backwards, IP over powerlines radiate RFI in to the airwaves
      • Re:Ham radio. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @09:57PM (#55735785)

        I didn't know that 'airwaves' could travel over powerlines. Maybe just the high frequency ones described in the summary? That's a hell of a breakthrough.

        They have done a minimal version of this for years.

        The problem is that this is another one of those ideas where people believe they can trump the laws of physics.

        The last time this was attempted, It failed pretty miserably. There are some serious problems. A power line is an antenna of sorts. You put signals on it, and they are going to radiate outwards from it. And the different frequencies of all the digital data will create a rather broadband hash. It interferes with licensed services. Attempts were made to notch out the frequencies that it used to not have the interference, but intermodulation, the mixing of different frequencies kind of made the notches not do much. The square-like waves of digital signals just make a splattery mess.

        Then there is getting it into the house. The concept uses the signals coming in on the house wiring But the signals don't survive goingthrough the transformer that feeds poer to your house. the cure such as it is, is some bypass circuitry that has the signal travelling down high tnesion lines. like a couple KiloVolt, then bypassing the transformer. to your house line. Hopefully the failure mode is always open.

        And the real kicker is that just about any radio transmission can knock them out. Kids with hand-talkies, People with CB radios, amateur radio operators, airplaines passing overhead.

        Coupled with the fact that it's a "Last Mile" solution, it needs an actual fiber or cable line to get the signal to the BPL lines, the main purpose of BPL is to extract investment money from people who do not understand RF.

        It's always sold as a way to get Internet access to people who aren't in a populated area. That part is 100 percent bogus. What would be the point of a last mile solution? They have to run the real line alomst to the house way out in the country.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        I didn't know that 'airwaves' could travel over powerlines.

        Then perhaps you don't have a clue about RF and should listen more than speaking.
        Powerlines are long strings of copper, and DEFINITELY capable of being radiators of radio frequency noise.

        Hell, a frequent source of radio interference that needs to be fixed is problems with electric company transformers and utility lines -- most local utilities need a crew whose purpose in life is to identify electric utility sources of RFI such as faulty transf

        • Powerlines are long strings of copper

          If they're long high-tension lines, copper isn't strong enough. Almost all high-tension lines are aluminium. The low-power lines coming to your house are (probably) copper, but most lines that stretch any appreciable distance are aluminium. They also aren't covered in insulation, which is why you see those occasional clips of mylar balloons hitting power lines and causing arcing.

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            If they're long high-tension lines, copper isn't strong enough. Almost all high-tension lines are aluminium.

            They can be copper, silver, or aluminum --- doesn't matter, they all work as conductors, as long as the material is supported; AND
            they can all act as radiators to propagate RF. If the lines are aerial lines - overhead high-voltage, then the common type would be Steel-Reinforced Aluminum (ACSR).

            They are OFTEN coated or covered to protect the cable or increase its ampacity, so yeah, the

        • I didn't know that 'airwaves' could travel over powerlines.

          Then perhaps you don't have a clue about RF and should listen more than speaking.

          When signals travel over copper, they are no longer 'airwaves'. That shouldn't be too hard a concept for you to understand. Airwaves travel through air. Perhaps you were trying too hard to sound smart.

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            When signals travel over copper, they are no longer 'airwaves'.

            FALSE. If a RF electromagnetic wave is picked up by copper and traverses along its length; it may still be called an airwave;
            as the air is still a part of the system, and EM at the frequency ranges commonly used for radio broadcasts are commonly called airwaves.

            The waves are electromagnetic in nature, and their properties do not fundamentally change.
            For example: if RF travels from the air through the ground; we don't start calling t

            • For example: if RF travels from the air through the ground; we don't start calling them "ground waves".

              That doesn't mean anything. We don't call waves over wires 'wire waves' either. But we do use the term airwaves specifically for those passing over air. Typically in wire waves are simply 'RF' waves, not airwaves. While passing through and antenna they are not airwaves. Carrier waves can refer to waves over various medium.

              • by mysidia ( 191772 )

                Typically in wire waves are simply 'RF' waves, not airwaves.

                They are RF waves when passing in the air as well. Airwaves does not refer to a wave that happens to be in the air.
                Airwaves is a nickname describes their USE and Intended Purpose, which is wireless transmission.

                Carrier waves can refer to waves over various medium.

                Carrier wave does NOT refer to a RF over various medium.
                A carrier wave refers specifically to a modulation pattern, where a signal is being conveyed.

                When we're talking about nois

                • Typically in wire waves are simply 'RF' waves, not airwaves.

                  They are RF waves when passing in the air as well.

                  I agree with that, they are RF waves. The only reason the 'airwave' term came about was to describe those waves the travel through the air.

                  A carrier wave is a carrier wave regardless of medium... you totally missed my point. I did call a carrier wave an RF waves. So, its not clear what you are arguing.

    • Re:Ham radio. (Score:4, Informative)

      by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @06:51PM (#55734859)

      sounds like the broadband over powerlines proposal some years ago that died. This may do the same like Ricochet, Metro (I think) and a few others that was going to be the "cat's meow" for all internet but ended up biting the dust. Yeah, higher speed internet to more customers... call me cynical but sounds much like waiting for the flying car, controlled fusion power plants, men on Mars, etc.

      Regarding emergency communications, first order of business is emergency managers (and fire chiefs, IC, others) want to first be able to talk across their town, not to another county, state. Local comms can be VHF, UHF. Of course when everything goes down, there's no power in the power lines so no interference then can do HF.

      • Of course when everything goes down, there's no power in the power lines so no interference then can do HF.

        Maybe you don't realize that the reason people use HF to communicate out of a region that has lost long distance comms is because the RECEIVING END still has service and can send help? As in, all the RF interference from the RECEIVING END'S BPL will keep the receiving end of the emergency communications from being able to hear it.

        We have an HF radio in an EOC to serve the county Emergency Manager, but it has so much interference that it is absolutely useless. When the backup generators kick in to provide

    • by Miser ( 36591 )

      That's ok. Depending on the frequency (the article did not say anything other than "high frequency") .... take your legal 1500W amp, key down and AT&T won't have to worry about Internet access for most of the town. This power line shit has been tried over and over but due to the fact power lines are big antennas not only will they splatter all over the radio bands, they also must ACCEPT any interference that they "hear".

      Guess it's time for me to set up some beacons that randomly transmit full legal p

  • Are they going to break power-line neutrality?

  • What a nightmare of local power utilities they'll have to negotiate with, all of them wanting various size cuts or just stealing and implementing the tech on their own.

    • Power companies should charge AT&T for use of their power lines based on bandwidth, and charge extra for certain websites/domains that want to traverse their network of power lines. That'll teach 'em.
  • by Da w00t ( 1789 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @06:52PM (#55734869) Homepage

    In the US, there's a swath of radio band that is reserved. First for the US government (e.g. military), then for licensed amateur radio operators. I think there's a tertiary option where if $user only uses less than some-small-number-of-miliwatts. But the higher precedence one trumps the lower ones.

    If this is going to be on ham radio frequencies, hams are going to essentially be able to cite FCC regs and say "shut that shit off" due to interference. Hams are GOOD at triangulating interferance, and if they discover it's coming from *all around them* they're going to speak up *quick*.

    Remember, Hams are folks who have spent their own money to get radio gear, and then use that radio gear to provide emergency communications in the event of a disaster. On 9/11 I took my handset to the local hospital in case land line phones and cell phones went down. Fortunately I wasn't needed, but ... you do not want to fuck with free emergency communications.

    • by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @06:58PM (#55734903)

      If this is going to be on ham radio frequencies, hams are going to essentially be able to cite FCC regs and say "shut that shit off" due to interference. Hams are GOOD at triangulating interferance, and if they discover it's coming from *all around them* they're going to speak up *quick*.

      I'd bet a pizza that AT&T has received assurances from Ajit Pai that the protests of hams will be ignored this time. Power line data has been tried before. It always makes a mess of the radio spectrum. Hams file the paperwork, and it goes away. Until the next time. This is the next time, but it might be a little different from the other times, since we have a blatantly corrupt chairman of the FCC doing what we all thought Tom Wheeler would do but didn't. I'm sure Mr. Wheeler was a great disappointment to his former employers.

      • The Police use radios to call for help if they get in trouble. They also have a legal monopoly on those frequencies, and guns. I expect they will find a way to shut that noise off.
    • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @09:22PM (#55735619) Journal

      Remember, Hams are folks who have spent their own money to get radio gear, and then use that radio gear to provide emergency communications in the event of a disaster.

      And they are wonderful people for doing this. But, keep in mind that the other 99.9% when there is no emergency going on, they are using it to chat with people on the other side of the globe.

      So I--and all my neighbors--have to give up on 1Gb/sec Internet so that you can chat with Ivan in Ukraine?

      • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @09:32PM (#55735685)

        they are using it to chat with people on the other side of the globe.

        They are also using it to train and practice for the times when lives depend on it.

        So I--and all my neighbors--have to give up on 1Gb/sec Internet so that you can chat with Ivan in Ukraine?

        No, you just have to use a system that doesn't obliterate existing uses of the radio spectrum, that is already recognized as a backup communications system when disaster strikes.

        • Actually, we don't have to do anything. If people, government, monied interests, or some combination thereof want to change the status quo, they will.

          Relegating hams to non-interference instead of service providers would honestly make way more sense. In the event of an emergency where there's a local internet outage, any restrictions won't matter since a) there won't be anything to interfere with, b) prosecution of almost any law requires mens rea (criminal intent) and trying to save lives is the opposite

          • Actually, we don't have to do anything.

            Oh, for Christ's sake. I'm sorry your first language isn't English and you can't recognize standard idioms.

            In the event of an emergency where there's a local internet outage, any restrictions won't matter since a) there won't be anything to interfere with

            And now you show it isn't a language problem, it's a brain problem.

      • You mean they should give up their chat so you can have yours?
    • BPL was used as an experiment a few years ago in a community nearby. The interference to HF ham radio and the CB frequencies extended about a block or so in each direction. The problem works both ways though. If you keyed up a transmitter on CB or Ham at the 50-100 watt level, the BPL would overload, quit, be silent for a few seconds, then recommence.
    • I'm sorry, could you repeat that? I couldn't hear your rational argument over the uproarious laughter of Ajit & Donald, and the cacophony of gold being thrown at them by telcos.

  • Wouldn't there have to be bridges at substations to retransmit the signals, because they'd get filtered out by the transformers? Or is this topologically-speaking closer to DSL, where there's a 'transceiver' or some sort on local neighborhood circuits? What about at your house? X10 signals, which are comparatively low frequency, get stopped at breaker boxes. Or would there be a modem of some sort installed right where public grid power enters the building?

    I need you to power-cycle your modem; turn your entire house off, wait 15 seconds, then turn your entire house back on again

    I dunno about this.

  • Idiotic idea (Score:4, Informative)

    by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @07:05PM (#55734943)

    This would be a hideous EMI generator. It would be insecure by design.

    Power lines are not designed to be constant impedance, and not designed to propagate high frequencies.

    Ever hear a high voltage power line insulator sizzle when it's raining? That sort of noise will wipe out any information being transmitted down the line.

    • Ever hear a high voltage power line insulator sizzle when it's raining?

      I'm quite sure that none of the powerline broadband proposals have ever even remotely considered using this as a backbone to transmit data across the country. And if the local LV power line outside is making that noise, stay the hell away from it and report it to your utility provider as quickly as possible.

    • by Shatrat ( 855151 )

      It would not necessarily be insecure by design. Some access technologies, like GPON, incorporate the option for AES encryption. Most networks I've seen don't enable the feature though. You'd need very specialized equipment to sniff GPON traffic anyway. There's no reason this system couldn't be encrypted between the modem and terminating device.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Please! As someone living in rural America, please, please, please bring it! I can only get (very lucky to have it too) 1.5mbp DSL from CenturyLink. No other provider is available and people just down the street from me have ZERO internet access other than through shitty services like HughesNet, which costs more and has heavy data limits that even with 1.5mbp DSL I'd eat in less than 1-2 days as we stream everything, music, movies, TV, etc. Can't even get a solid FM signal where we are, unless you enjoy

  • "...high-frequency airwaves that travel along power lines."

    Did I miss the meeting where it became de rigueur to just make "science" up as you go along?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Look up Goubau line. It is a single conductor waveguide.

      My guess is that this is what's going to be used. I've seen this transmission line in use and it would be a good fit.

      Continuing to guess, I would think the USA Federal Communications Commission could find a few GHz of spectrum in the 30GHz-80GHz range. If there are no sharp turns in the wire, the radiation from the line and susceptibility of unwanted pickup of signals into the line is quite low.

      • Look up Goubau line. It is a single conductor waveguide.

        My guess is that this is what's going to be used. I've seen this transmission line in use and it would be a good fit.

        Continuing to guess, I would think the USA Federal Communications Commission could find a few GHz of spectrum in the 30GHz-80GHz range. If there are no sharp turns in the wire, the radiation from the line and susceptibility of unwanted pickup of signals into the line is quite low.

        So definitely not an "airwave," got it.

  • We managed to get electric and phone to every home and cable to most...we can get fiber to all of them. Stop screwing around with these other stupid techs.
    • We managed to get electric and phone to every home and cable to most...we can get fiber to all of them. Stop screwing around with these other stupid techs.

      Yeah, they used to talk a lot about fiber. Then they found out how expensive it is to get it to rural, suburban, and overly-dense urban areas, and they pretty much gave up.

  • AT&T has started trials to deliver high-speed internet over power lines.

    What's the competition for power lines in the average neighborhood?

    • The average neighborhood can get fiber. This is for the country, where it's impractical to run fiber. The same low population density means lower competition.
  • IIRC what I read on other sources, this time around, AT&T is using the three TRANSMISION lines (115KiloVolts to 500KiloVolts) as a waveguide.

    This is not your BPL stuff to the home. This is not going in the 110/220/480volts powerlines.

    And If they intend to transmit 1Gbps, they better operate at VERY high frequencies. Higher than HAM.

    Probably intended to feed data to basestations in rural areas.

  • I'm not an EE type, but I can't help but wonder how this works with any reliability behind it.

    Power is inherently noisy. Especially at my house if I'm to believe what the UPS tells me.
    It's unshielded, thus will pick up everything and its brother and cause problems with the HF bands.
    I'm sure you've heard the effect when turning on a light-switch with an active speaker running. ( pop )
    How the hell do you get the signal across the transformers along the path ?

    Maybe it comes with some goofy ( of course it's go

  • See, there's Internet over the power-lines coming... just like it's been promised for 20 years. There's no need for Net Neutrality. When do they vote for that anyway?

  • "... using high-frequency airwaves that travel along power lines"

    And up things really go down?

  • as anyone who has used ethernet over power socket can attest
  • If you're going to use common carrier infrastructure to deliver a service, does that make you a common carrier?
  • You know how on CSI they can zoom in on a 640x480 video camera and see the filed-off serial number on a gun? Sending lots of information over an AC power line is like that. There are many basic electromagnetic hurdles, many of them quite intractable. You have the issues of bandwidth over bare wires, bandwith through transformers, all the noise-supression capacitors across the power line, line noise from light-dimmers, fluourescent tubes, dozens of nearby switching-mode power supplies, lightning, s

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