RealTime IT News

DirecTV Powers Up With BPL

DirecTV put a charge in its broadband services Wednesday, announcing a wholesale distribution deal with broadband over powerline (BPL) provider Current Group. The deal includes both high-speed Internet and VoIP services.

DirecTV customers will have access to Current's BPL network, which allows consumers to access the Internet by plugging a modem into an electrical outlet. Current's electrical grid overlay also improves energy efficiency and reliability.

The initial phase of the deal covers the Dallas-Fort Worth area of approximately 1.8 million homes and allows DirecTV to offer bundled services of television, voice and Internet to compete with telephone and cable company packages. DirecTV hopes to offer the service by late this year or early in 2008.

"Our agreement with Current gives our customers another high-quality, easy-to-use option to pair broadband services with DirecTV's video offerings," Evan Grayer, vice president of Broadband for DirecTV. "By choosing this bundled option, DirecTV customers will now be able to enjoy fast, reliable and secure high-speed Internet service anywhere they have a power outlet in their homes."

Two years ago, Google , Goldman Sachs and the Hearst Corp. invested a combined $100 million in the Germantown, Md.-based Current Group.

"Consumers in Dallas will have a compelling new choice for their broadband service and, at the same time, feel good about the fact that the same Internet network is helping to improve the efficiency and reliability of the electric grid while reducing its environmental impact," Current CEO Tom Casey said in a statement.

BPL holds tantalizing prospects for spreading broadband since the wires that carry electricity also possess the capacity to serve as a conduit for data signals. By bundling radio-frequency energy on the same line with the electric current, data can be transmitted without the need for a separate line.

Some technologists and industry analysts, however, remain concerned with the potential interference to radio transmissions from BPL systems. BPL transmissions are not shielded to prevent radio interference in the same manner as telephone and cable lines. Amateur radio operators, in particular, have opposed BPL.

However, in 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved rules clearing the way for commercial deployment of BPL. The decision classified BPL as an unlicensed service, with the rules primarily aimed at limiting interference with licensed radio services.

The FCC established "exclusion zones" in areas near sensitive operations, such as Coast Guard stations, where BPL must avoid operating on some frequencies. Amateur radio operators received no exclusions, but the rules require the establishment of a publicly available BPL notification database to help identify and resolve harmful interference claims.

The technology is already being used in Manassas, Va., and Cincinnati, Ohio, and more than 40 trials are under way throughout the country.