BPL trial slowed due to skills shortage

But the trial should be completed by the end of the year.

Country Energy's Broadband over Power Line (BPL) trial is being extended by a month, due to a lack of experienced field technicians and staff. "The pilot timetable has been extended, to allow for the manpower situation, (so it is) likely (to continue now) until the end of December in order to achieve the business-case Key Performance Indicators," said Country Energy Group Commercial Projects Manager Stuart Chapman.

Country Energy, which manages Australia's largest power supply network across 95 per cent of the state, launched a six month trial in May this year, to test power utility applications as well as high speed broadband Internet and voice-over-internet services delivered via power lines.

Chapman said the response from over 300 participating households in the Queanbeyan and Jerrabomberra region has been very positive and there have also been many requests that could not be tackled as they were just outside the pilot-designed geographic area.

"The utility aspects of remote meter data collection, grid data and switching functions have also been positive," Chapman said.

Most homes have had 2 Mb/s speeds, but the average has been a little less due to bandwidth sharing issues with the VoIP service during the first half of the pilot.

Chapman said there have been a few difficulties during the pilot, primarily related to system architecture, and the challenge of designing the change in operation mode wavelength to achieve distance coverage without interference with the previous section mode.

Interference caused by household "noisy appliances" such as clock radios, night-lights, and refrigerators also required some work, he said.

Chapman said that although BPL is not a silver bullet answer to electronic data transfer issues, the experience so far from Australia, Europe and the US demonstrates that there are many interests in the technology and its growing applications.

Other BPL trials in Australia include those by Victoria's SP AusNet, and Tasmania's Aurora Energy. The technology is also gathering steam in the enterprise market where Brisbane's Treasury Casino is using it in a heritage-listed building, where they were prohibited from installing new network cabling.

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Dahna McConnachie

Good Gear Guide

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