Broadband over powerline (BPL) is a internet service type where customers get high-speed internet connections through their standard electrical outlets.
Users simply plug a power line modem into any socket and there is no need for additional special wiring.
This emerging technology, shows potential because already installed power lines can be used to service customers without needing to build a completely new broadband infrastructure.
There have been a number of providers using BPL in the U.S., but none of them are still operating as of 2016. Most cases of powerline broadband were implemented by the electric companies that owned the local power lines in order to serve rural areas without any broadband infrastructure. Since the Broadband Initiative in 2009, these electric companies have largely opted to use the available government grants to fund new fiber optic infrastructure rather than rely on broadband over power line.
Benefits of Powerline Internet
Powerline internet offers an affordable way for power companies to provide broadband access to areas with low population densities by leveraging their existing infrastructure.
Because Powerline internet leverages the existing infrastructure, electric companies can offer competitive services without an immense capital investment.
This means lower costs to service new customers allowing the electric utility to pass the savings on to customers.
Because powerlines were originally designed to only carry electricity, they don't have any protective coating to aid in noise rejection (unlike fiber or coaxial cable).
This means that other communication technologies can produce interference and degrade the quality of service experienced by users.
Because the power grid in the US relies heavily on the use of step down transformers to provide customers with electricity, special repeaters must be attached to transformers to provide a seamless connection.
Currently, powerline connections in Europe are more prevalent because the differences in their power grid require far fewer repeaters.
How Powerline Internet Works
To provide broadband over power lines the electric company simply adds powerline adapters and repeaters across it's existing power infrastructure. From there the powerline adaptors receive broadband data and transmit it over the powerlines at a special frequency.
Once a home is connected to a powerline provider all the consumer needs is a powerline modem which separates the data signal from the electricity.