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Can Powerline Compete with DSL?

Internet access from an electrical socket was launched on July 1 in Germany. With its current price structure and the speed of its infrastructure expansion, however, it is not expected that Powerline (as the technology is called) will develop into a mass medium.

Shortcomings in regards to both the technology and the price could hinder quick success. spoke with Klaus Wertel, spokesman for the EnBW Energy Baden-W|rttemberg AG. In the next few months, Powerline will enter into direct competition with DSL technology. It will have to compete against this technology and could be defeated by it, because the speed of Powerline is not guaranteed. Powerline is a so-called "shared medium," which means that all users connected to the same local network station share the maximum access speed, which is reduced considerably as the number of users increases. Is this just teething troubles or a basic defect?

Wertel: In our three-year test phase, in which a total of 150 Powerline test individuals took part, we looked into this question ourselves. As it turned out, the user simultaneity factor is negligibly small and has as good as no influence on transmission speed. The transmission rate of 2 MB/sec from the local network station is practically always available. We've noticed far more bottlenecks in broadband Internet. Besides that, there is a maximum of 20 participants connected to each local network station equipped with a Powerline base station, and these participants have differing qualitative and temporal user habits. So far, all providers offer price models based on the amount of data used. Infrequent users don't understand this, and for frequent users, Powerline is considerably more expensive than alternative technologies. The infrastructure also does not have full coverage; the Powerline service is being only gradually expanded by all operators. Why?

Wertel: The EnBW price model consists of three different rates in order to account for individual surfing habits. "Normal surfers" receive a transfer volume of 100 MB for DM 29 (US$13) per month; frequent surfers have a volume of 1,000 MB available to them for DM 69 (US$31) per month; and professional surfers can order 3,000 MB or 8,000 MB for DM 199 (US$89) and DM 459 (US$406) per month respectively. The gradual expansion of Powerline is ultimately a capacity problem. At the same time, the regional expansion plans are dependent on the economic efficiency that will first prove itself in practice. The EnBW is concentrating on densely settle areas and according to current plans, the majority of people living in the EnBW network area should have access to Powerline in a few years.