Vector winds down data over power line trial

A trial in Auckland to run communications links over power lines has failed to produce commercial results and is being wound down.

A trial in Auckland to run communications links over power lines has failed to produce commercial results and is being wound down.

The trial was started by UnitedNetworks and continued by Vector after its takeover of United.

“We still have some customers connected on a trial basis but haven’t been able to get anything commercially viable,” says Maxine Elliott, general manager of Tangent, Vector’s networking branch. “We can’t get enough distance and the equipment is a bit expensive.”

The small number of homes on Auckland’s North Shore involved in the trial will remain on the PLC (power line communications) technology “and we’ll continue to watch that space”.

In 2002 Buller Electricity announced plans to trial PLC, with a view to supplying broadband to Westport.

Steve Christie, chief executive of The Pacific.Net, a joint venture between Buller Electricity and ISP Tasman Solutions, says “we’ve tested [PLC] and there’s quite a few issues with it worldwide re [radio frequency] leakage”.

He says the organisation’s focus is now on project Probe. ThePacific.Net won the Nelson region Probe tender in October, beating the Telecom-BCL and Woosh-Vodafone consortia.

PLC has a history of not delivering, with Nortel Networks abandoning a PLC project in Britain in the late 1990s, though carriers continue to trial it and watch developments.

The European Commission last week announced it was funding Opera (the Open PLC European Research Alliance) by way of 9 million euros. A uniform European PLC standard is one of Opera’s initial goals. The EC believes PLC will be an effective way to deliver broadband to rural areas and places not served by DSL.

Germany has been at the forefront of PLC development in Europe but Siemens and electricity company Eon have since abandoned their work on it.

In other developments at Tangent, Elliott says with Tangent’s and the former United ethernet metropolitan fibre networks in Auckland and Wellington now linked by a Cisco core, “we’re producing Vector’s communications services.

“Vector uses a lot of comms re equipment and gas and electricity networks and we’re providing the WAN and Scada [supervisory control and data acquisition] solutions.”

Scada refers to software that gathers data in real time from remote locations and is commonly used in the electricity industry.

Vector is also looking at selling bundled power, gas and broadband packages, she says.

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