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Dallas-Fort Worth Earns BPL Clout

Texas's largest electricity supplier will implement broadband over power lines (BPL) in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, making it the nation's most ambitious BPL project to date.

TXU Electric Delivery, a subsidiary of TXU Corp. , said Monday it is teaming with Maryland-based Current Communications Group to overlay a broadband delivery system on its Texas power grid.

Current, which is already operating a BPL system in Cincinnati, will finance, design, build and operate the TXU network, eventually offering voice, video and data through consumers' electrical outlets.

In addition, the electrical broadband system will allow TXU real-time network monitoring and security of its power grid.

Under the terms of the agreement with Current, TXU will procure services over 10 years for approximately $150 million to utilize the smart-grid capabilities of Current's BPL network.

When completed next year, the system will reach more than 2 million customers.

TXU will also become an equity holder in Current. Earlier this year, Current announced Google , Goldman Sachs and the Hearst Corporation invested a combined $100 million in the company.

"BPL will enable us to respond more quickly and efficiently to outages of all magnitudes, manage our distribution network more proactively and further safeguard our dispersed critical assets in today's heightened security environment," said TXU Chairman and CEO Tom Baker.

Baker called the deal with Current a "significant" development in the evolution of the 21st-century power grid, allowing for remote monitoring and operation of switches and transformers, remote meter reading and transformer overload detection.

"In the past, we pushed electrons out from a generator," Baker said. "Now, it will come back and talk to us."

William H. Berkman, chairman and co-founder of the privately held Current, said the deal "illustrates the economic advantages of driving multiple applications across a single large-scale network deployment."

By bundling radio frequency (RF) energy to travel on the same lines that carry electrical currents, BPL allows data to be transmitted without the need for a separate line. Since the electrical current and the RF energy signals operate at different frequencies, the two don't interfere with each other.

Current installs its equipment at local transformers and network points, allowing communication signals to flow like power on the same medium and low-voltage lines that feed into a user's home or business to electrical outlets. The entire network is managed from a centralized location.

Current's BPL is channeled into homes through cell-phone-charger-sized modems that plug into any electrical outlet. Transmission is symmetrical, so uploads are as fast as downloads.