back to article AT&T tries broadband over power lines again

AT&T has charged up the paddles, yelled “clear!”, and fired the defibrillator into one of telecommunications' worst ideas: broadband over power lines (BPL). Except, as chief strategy officer John Donovan stressed in a media call, this isn't BPL, it's kind of wireless-broadband-near-powerlines. The Reg wasn't invited to the …

  1. Suricou Raven

    This looks familiar.

    This is Tesla tech. Signal transmission using a conductive solid waveguide, and the signal propagating through the surrounding space coupled to a surface wave. Tesla developed that, though using a different shape antenna (A horn, with the wire passing through the middle).

    It doesn't look entirely practical. You'd have to fit the rather expensive equipment to the top of every single pole along the path, and a fault with even one of those devices would render all of the downstream network inaccessible.

    1. swschrad

      more than familiar

      any radio signal will induce wired signals when crossing a wire. and any wired signal will induce radio waves over its distance, diminishing as the LRC damps them. this is older than Tesla, it goes back to Edison actually.

      and Marconi and Popov and deForest and Fessenden and on and on and on. there is so much prior art that ATT can be blown out of the financial waters on this over the patent alone.

      and yes, as a ham facing enough freakin' interference from crud plasma TVs and puck lights under cabinets powered by junk switching wall warts, I will support efforts to slap this nonsense down hard.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Missed by this much!

    Radio hams will probably sharpen their pitchforks when they find AT&T still likes the idea of power line transmissions in the 30 – 300 MHz bands – enough, at least, to file a patent for it.

    30-300 GHz is not the same frequency band as 30-300 MHz. Just by a factor of a thousand. Besides, as I recall, UHF (30-300 MHz) doesn't do surface wave propagation.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Missed by this much!

      Still, you have to wonder if trying this surface wave thing at the GHz range can cause resonance or other interference to filter back down into the MHz range. El Reg, after all, is full of complaints by amateur radio operators after earlier BPL attempts were introduced, and many of them weren't even that close to the units in use.

    2. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      And another thing...

      How do they plan to address areas like mine with UNDERGROUND power distribution?

      The neighborhood I live in is rather large. At just over 2200 discrete single family homes (i.e. no condos, apartments, duplexes, or other multi-family structures), the area was once the largest such development in the southern US and covers several square miles. In fact, living close the the geographic center of it, I often have trouble getting a decent cellular signal inside and must step outside to use my mobile phone. For that reason, I must maintain one form or another of "land line" phone. Yes, there is a power transformer pedestal in my back yard. However, if the wave is propogated along the lines themselves, most of that is roughly two meters below grade.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: And another thing...

        They'll do it at the transformer points, then, which you've admitted are ABOVE ground.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And another thing...

        They're probably targeting this for rural areas who aren't served by cable/DSL currently. Power lines are always above ground in such areas, it is too expensive to bury them.

        Likely the "last mile" to the house will be LTE from a fixed antenna on the power pole to a fixed antenna on the house, using one of the bands they own that isn't used for cellular.

        In areas where homes already have nearby cell towers that have a fiber connection, AT&T would just add an antenna there and be done with it. But in some areas, due to terrain or low population density, the towers may be spaced too far apart - or be running on a pair of T1s and the cost to run fiber to them is deemed too high. The power line method is presumably a cheaper way of connecting customers in such areas.

  3. tr1ck5t3r

    Cool, using your neighbours broadband via their powerline adapters in newbuilds could get faster.

  4. Dave 32

    Goubau Line

    It's old technology (1899, 1907, 1950):


    P.S. Now, if we could just get beer to flow along the surface of power lines...

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Goubau Line

      "if we could just get beer to flow along the surface of power lines..."

      It does, in my experience. That's what the drip-loops are for. Place your stein below them, and I hope you like the added flavoring of the plastic and dust.

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