[LINK] BPL, Skystation and other flames for venture capital moths
rw at firstpr.com.au
Sun Mar 15 19:06:02 EST 2009
You wrote, in part:
> And yes, it IS early days.
> concerted Aussie government efforts that may encourage power
> company provision of broadband? It works, apparently quite well
Broadband over Powerline proposals and associated PR have been
around for years. Even with the most sophisticated modulation
techniques, these schemes do not come within 10% of what it takes to
make a generally installable broadband service over existing power
lines. If you have to modify the power lines in any way, the
economic advantage disappears compared to DSL or probably wireless.
The problems are fundamental in the nature of the existing power
lines and cannot be solved with any degree of technology being
connected to them.
This report from 2006:
states correctly that BPL's momentum stalled. What stalled was the
momentum of its PR and the ill-fated attempts to standardise the
system and make products which worked well enough to sell in large
Sending data around the house on powerlines is a different thing and
is feasible and cheap. BPL involves doing over hundreds or
thousands of metres in the street, to multiple houses, including
those running in-house systems.
The IEEE stopped working on it in 2005, it seems:
Bruce Caslon's page has a good round-up on BPL:
The five reports I wrote for Paul Budde Communications can be
BPL has a long history of attracting people who know just a little
about the real technical challenges to think it might be possible by
throwing enough sophisticated microcircuitry and signal processing
algorithms at the problem. It seems you are a recent moth to the flame.
All it takes is someone jumping up and down saying things like "it
works quite well" and then invoking conspiracy theories for why this
promising technology has been suppressed by those who it threatens,
and another few moths will be drawn in. I think it is a bad idea to
falsely raise the hopes of many people who can't get broadband.
I think BPL is an example of an idea which is both off-beat enough
and seemingly promising enough to enthuse a few of the more reckless
venture capitalists who throw their money around before doing a
proper reality check.
A more knowledgeable technical person - probably teamed with someone
who can put up a good business-like front - can apparently attract
enough millions of dollars from the VC crowd to give themselves a
job for a few years and the possibility of raking off some of the
dough. Either they were hopelessly naive at the time, or they knew
very well that the technology could never be made to work as it
needed to for a reliable, easily deployable, broadband service. One
way they were gravely irresponsible and the other they were fraudsters.
A good example of such a proposal is Skystation, from 1996 to 2003:
Solar powered stratospheric blimps on duty above major metropolitan
areas, carrying microwave transponders. Not a bad idea . . . except
for the weight of the solar cells, the impossibility of building
long-lasting batteries or fuel cells to get it though the night, the
immense challenges of making ion engines work at all, let alone
produce enough thrust to handle the winds . . . and the permeability
of most materials to those slippery little helium atoms. (Would H2
have been better, I wonder?) Also, it is not clear how the craft
could be kept at the same height with differences in temperature,
air density etc. Then, even if it worked, and could be kept on
station, pointing in the right direction, not moving around too
much, there is the "single point of failure" problem.
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