Sunday, August 28, 2005

Combine your internet-, television- and telephoneplugs and electricity plug

Powerline has been a white elephant for years. Every year a story about the ease of using the electricity plug as a as a router/modem for your internet connection was published. Germany tried it around Mainz and in the Ruhr area. And it still works over there as the service Vype. Yet it did not seem to go much beyond the area of the experiment. It did not succeed in overwhelming Berlin or Hamburg. Also in the Netherlands we had an experiment with 180 households in Arnhem. In 2003 the energy company Nuon decided not to continue the experiment as the technology was not stable yet.

So it was rather surprising to hear that the Belgian cable operator Telenet (an explanation in Dutch and French) had selected a Powerline solution for internet and also for interactive digital television service. The company has 1,7 million customers on its own network and services 0,7 million customers of third party networks. Can you imagine what this means for the daily company operation. By choosing the Powerline solution they can add more households than by making the cable network ready for digital television, internet and other digital services.

The Netgear Wall Plugged Ethernet Bridge is plug-and-play network equipment for the electricity network to act as a home network. The Netgear Wall-Plugged Ethernet Bridge is certified by the HomePlug Powerline Alliance. With electricity a radiosignal is sent along to the computer, printer, settop box and other consumer electronic equipment. The equipment uses Intellon technology, which let consumer share their internet connections, stream audio and video and link up PCs and consumer electronics through wall plugs. Telenet argues that the number of consumers that can be helped every day is larger than with the traditional coax or glass fibre technology. Besides the wall plug technology reaches 200 Mbps now; this is more than Teleste’s speed of 100Mbps in 2007.

At first glance, this looks like a real step forward for the Powerline technology in Europe. But it might also be of influence to the telecom world. Besides internet the powerline can also carry VOip calls. So you can take your call from the telephone linked to the powerline.

Most energy companies have given up the idea that they will play a role in internet and sold off their internet activities. If the trend of Telenet continues they will try to win back customers for energy, internet, interactive television and internet telephone. Who is talking about monopolies. It probably might be worse than the days of the incumbent telecom companies.

It is worthwhile to see how the powerline instalments in Telenet fare. Perhaps Telenet made the right bet at the right time and is ahead of the Belgian energy companies. I wonder when the Dutch power companies are going to take up Powerline internet; with their company reputation of bad invoices and the worst help desks in the Netherlands, the technology might at last work, but the consumer might not like to buy from the energy companies. It would be so nice to have more competition from the cable operators and telecom companies. As the infrastructure is there, the internet and digital television services exist and the technology is cheaper than that of cable distribution, powerline might be the end of the cable.

No comments: