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News and comments on community broadband networks, the communities deploying them and the technologies that support them. Published by Denise Frey and Al Bonnyman.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2003


I spoke to two powerline broadband vendors at the UTC Expo in Houston yesterday, getting two very different views:

I spoke to two powerline broadband vendors at the UTC Expo in Houston yesterday, getting two very different views of radio interference:

1. Phil Simons with Amperion, was very sensitive to the issue and explained various modifications they could potentially make to their product to address any interference. Phil expressed an interest in working with other spectrum users such as radio amateurs (I gave him Ed O'Hare's name at the ARRL). He also noted that their product had been certified compliant with the FCC's part 15 requirements. (Another powerline broadband vendor, has also told me that have also been part 15 certified).

Phil, who has worked elsewhere in the powerline broadband industry before Amperion, said much of the ill-will towards powerline broadband from other spectrum users stemmed from disastrous trials of earlier technologies. (Joe Marsilii with has told me that one now-defunct vendor's early equipment actually started a fire in the house of a senior utility executive's home, quickly bringing that utility's evaluation to an end!)

I hope to visit one of Amperion's trials in the near-future.


2. The other vendor (a European PHY chipmaker), whom I won't name, was openly dismissive of interference issues, saying that other spectrum users -- radio amateurs in particular -- would never be satisfied. He said if my utility clients are concerned, they should just invest in a technology trial and prove it for themselves. My response was:

A. My clients don't want to pay this thousands of dollars to prove his equipment will work without getting them in trouble with their customers and the FCC. It's his job (and $$), not their job, to prove and document his stuff works without violating U.S. laws.

B. Some our smallest clients -- municipal utilities -- are the very utilities most interested in powerline broadband for their communities. Folks in these small towns know the mayor, the city manager and the utility manager personally and don't hesitate to call them up at home in the middle of the night with service complaints. These Fiber Planners clients are not going to want to provoke a number of their customers with radio interference problems.


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