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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Broadband over Power Line: Why Amateur Radio Is Concerned about Its Deployment

Radio amateurs are not opposed to broadband services. On the contrary, they tend to be early adopters of new technology. However, there are ways to deliver broadband that do not pollute the radio spectrum as Broadband over Power Line (BPL) does. These include fiber-to-the-home, cable, DSL, and wireless broadband. The ARRL--The National Association for Amateur Radio - is supportive of broadband access for all Americans; however, it opposes BPL as a way to achieve this goal because of its high potential for causing interference to radiocommunication.

What is Broadband over Power Line?

BPL is the delivery of broadband Internet signals using electrical wiring to conduct high-speed digital signals to homes and businesses. BPL systems are designed to deliver Internet services using medium voltage power lines as the distribution medium and generally use the frequency range between 1.7 and 80 megahertz (MHz).

The Concern: Broadband + Power Lines = Interference

Because power lines are not designed to prevent radiation of RF energy, BPL represents a significant potential interference source for all radio services using this frequency range, including the Amateur Radio Service. Overhead electrical power lines and residential wiring act as antennas that unintentionally radiate the broadband signals as radio signals throughout entire neighborhoods and along roadsides. Interference has been observed nearly one mile from the nearest BPL source.

Others at risk

• The "short waves" -- the only part of the radio spectrum that supports long-distance, intercontinental radio communication. The short waves are used for international broadcasting, aeronautical, maritime, disaster relief, and other services including the military.
• The "low-band VHF" frequency range that is heavily used by volunteer fire departments, police, and other first responders.
• Depending on their distance from a BPL system, some public safety and federal government radio systems could receive harmful interference.

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