BPL System Could Be Deployed In Concord

powerline transformer pixAmateurs in Concord, MA are closely monitoring plans by the Town’s electric utility to implement a Broadband over Power Line (BPL) system supplied by PowerGrid Communications of Meridian, Idaho.

“We’ve had meetings with them, with Ed Hare, W1RFI and we’re also working closely with [Concord Municipal Light Plant],” says Steve Telsey, N1BDA of the Colonial Wireless Association.

Telsey notes that there are currently no BPL operations in Concord at the present time, and that any pilot program would not commence “until at least February or March.”

“[PowerGrid’s] Chief Technology Officer has met with us and he brought samples of the equipment to demonstrate.” N1BDA describes their relationship with the company as “cordial and very cooperative.”

“They know the hams are very concerned about this system. They’re willing to notch out the ham bands. This won’t address problems faced by shortwave listeners and users of time signal stations, however.”

Ed Hare, W1RFI, is Laboratory Manager at ARRL Headquarters. He is also considered by many in the telecommunications industry as an expert on BPL.

According to Hare, “This is a DS2-chipset system made by Corinex. Such a system has been recently installed in Houston, Texas, operated by CenterPoint, the electric utility. Although there was one complaint to a home Amateur station, it was quickly resolved by notching the Amateur bands. At this point, in Houston the Amateur bands are notched in the entire system. I evaluated the Houston system a few months ago and found that with good communication between hams and the BPL operator and careful operation and notching, it is possible to operate DS2-based BPL system without major interference problems. The same cooperation exists in Concord.”
The BPL database indicates that the system will include “the entire community with some overhead and underground installation.” Approximately 130 nodes would be deployed.

N1BDA says that the light company is still exploring a possible business model. “It’s possible the whole thing might get canceled.”

Although Concord Municipal Light “technically doesn’t need permission” from other Town governmental entities, Telsey doubts whether an operational BPL system would go forward without approval from the Town’s Board of Selectman and Town Manager.

For now, Colonial Wireless Association officers are requesting that the matter be kept “low key” so that negotiations can move forward in a spirit of cooperation.

[To learn more about Broadband over Power Line and Amateur Radio, visit http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/HTML/plc/index.html.]

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