Matthew Fuller on Fri, 10 Oct 1997 23:12:23 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> delivery of net via electricity supply

Article from The Guardian 9 - 10 - 97
Nicholas Bannister

British Team Discover the Internet's Holy Grail

A 100-strong team in Essex has discovered on of the holy grails of the
telecommunications industry - a way to deliver internet services to the
home via the electricity mains.
        The new technology prevents the electrical current from distorting
internet signals and other computer data transmitted over the mains.  It
will enable electricity companies to offer their customers Internet access
at speeds 30 times greater than today's high-speed modems attached to
telephone lines, and open the way to mass marketing of the internet at
prices which most families will be able to afford
        At present the system relies on a special feed from the household
electricity meter, but the developers, working in Harlow, Essex are
confident that within a few years personal computer owners will just have
to plug themselves into the nearest household electricity point to link up
to the internet.
        Norweb Communications, part of the United Utilities water and
electricity group has debeloped the technology with Nortel, a Canadian
electronics group specialising in telecommunications.
        The Internet information is lifted from a small box linked to the
electricity meter.  It is then carried round the house on co-axial cables
similar to those used to link televisions to aerial sockets.  The cable is
linked to the computer using a PC card costing under 200ukp.
        Norweb Communications plans to offer the service to its 2 million
customers after a six-month marketing trial which will start in the first
quarter of next year.
        Mark Ballett, the company's managing director is considering
bundling internet access with the groups water and electricity services in
the north-west, and with new information and hom-management services,
including remote meter reading.  Customers would pay a fixed monthly fee,
yet to be decided for unlimited useage.
        Ian Vance, Nortel Europe's chief scientist, said the link could be
used for conventional PC and network computers - slimmed down versions
designed just for accessing the internet.  There was a potential to be
permanently on-line, downloading video-clips and compact disc quality
sound, and joining in high-speed computer games or video-conferencing.
        He said the team was working further on the technology so it would
be suitable for telephone calls, but "it is a couple of years before it
becomes a serious volume business".
        At present the system has to use conventional telecommunications
networks to link the electricity substations to the internet.  But the
research team hopes to be able to squeeze the telecom comapnies out by
using the country's high-voltage national grid instead.
        The developers have been testing the technology for 18 months, not
least to ensure that internet signals do not effect doemstic appliances.
        Energis, one of the newer telecom companies, is working with Nortel
and others on developing simlar technology to make its advanced telecom
services into businesses via the local electricity network.  This
technology which has higher capacity than that announced today, is unlikely
to be available for 18 months.

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