You Beauty! Victorians to get free broadband as part of trial

Fifty lucky residents in the Victorian alpine town of Mt Beauty will get access to free broadband as part of a trial by SP AusNet to test the viability of delivering Internet over power lines.

SP AusNet, Victoria's biggest energy transmission and distribution utility, is conducting a Broadband over Power lines information meeting tonight at the Mt Beauty Neighbourhood Centre. Following a presentation, interested residents will be asked to nominate themselves for a trial of the service.

However, not everyone from Mt Beauty can participate in the trial: it is restricted to residents who live on eight streets in the town: Lakeside Avenue, Nelse St, Roper Street, Valley Avenue, McKay Street, Freeburgh Street, Simmonds Street and Wermatong Avenue, said Cory Parfett, communications adviser at SP AusNet.

Although it is still to be confirmed, SP AusNet is expected to be delivering a minimum of 5Mbps download/upload speeds to each location.

The trial is expected to begin in September and those who will be selected will receive free and unlimited broadband; dedicated e-mail addresses; an iLevo SmartBPL Modem incorporating separate ports for Internet, USB and VoIP; and any necessary external equipment including installation if required.

A Video on Demand to some of the locations is also expected, in which case the residents will need a set-top box that connects to the SmartBPL modem.

The trial is expected to last six months.

"We want them to use the service as much as possible and we will assess them through that period," Parfett said.

The utility is partnering with Schneider Electric which is providing all components of the BPL network. This includes the Head End, Repeaters, Couplers and related items such as specific cables and connectors.

According to Gavin de Livera, strategic business development manager at Schneider Electric, the trial will run over overhead power lines and SP AusNet have undertaken to carry out interference tests - a side-effect of BPL transmission -- before and after the head ends have been installed.

David Mclennan, project manager for the Mt Beauty deployment said the area was ideal for the tests as it is situated in a valley. "This gives us a clear [test] site for interference - there is very little background noise in a valley," he said.

Strong noise level become a concern as they can interfere in HF signals which are used by amateur radio operators.

In addition, Mt Beauty, which is situated in Victoria's north-east and about 30kms from Falls Creek, is an ideal location due to its proximity to its existing fibre telecommunications network linking the township to Melbourne.

SP AusNet joins a number of utilities such as NSW's Country Energy and Tasmania's Aurora Energy currently trialling BPL. Country Energy said this week it is also expected to launch a BPL pilot later this year.

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