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Friday, February 27, 2004


What does the FCC's BPL ruling really mean?

Gary Box is an electrical engineer in Minneapolis who's spent much of his career dealing with RF (radio frequency) energy on power distribution systems. Of all the comments following the FCC's NPRM (notice of proposed rule making) on BPL (broadband over power line), I thought his were the most interesting:
"The FCC meeting was an interesting study in politics. All of the media picked up on the soundbites from the commissioners and little or none of the technical summary. I dont think the FCC has released the text of their proposed NPRM and, according to the summary from their engineering staff at the meeting, they will actually imposed more restrictions on BPL that it had the day before:"
  • "All of the BPL vendors had asked for increased emission standards; the emission standards were not changed."
  • "All BPL vendors claimed no interference. The NPRM would require all BPL vendors to provide active interference mitigation, thus admitting that interference would otherwise occur. In fact, the condition that BPL must shut down if notching and power reduction is not enough remains intact, as for all part 15 devices."
  • "All BPL vendors have been secretive as to the locations of their tests, and when confronted, claimed recorded interference did not come from them. The NPRM requires a national database recording the location, modulation and frequency of every BPL device. This effectively turns every BPL device into an easily tracked beacon."

"At the start of business on February 12, BPL could be deployed within the restrictions of all other Part 15 devices. When the NPRM is passed, BPL will be the most constrained of all Part 15 devices, more restricted than a baby monitor or cordless phone. This also makes BPL the least robust of all broadband approaches."

I am more optimistic about BPL than Gary, but the point is that it will take careful planning to successfully deploy a BPL system; deployments may not even be possible in some geographic areas depending on how much of the HF (high frequency) spectrum is already in use by government and private license holders.


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