Posted from the Monday edition of www.dallasnews.xom, see links below and at end of story--Tom, WW5L
TXU grid to carry Internet service
New partner to offer broadband connection using power lines
08:10 AM CST on Monday, December 19, 2005
TERRY MAXON / The
A couple million Texans may soon be able to get their Internet broadband service by plugging into their electrical outlets.
In a deal to be announced today, TXU will pay about $150 million over 10 years for an ownership stake in Current Communications Group Inc., which will turn TXU's transmission system into a "smart electricity grid."
In turn, Current plans to offer broadband service over TXU's lines.
Current Communications uses broadband over power lines, or BPL technology, to hook up customers to the Internet using the electrical outlets in homes.
BPL has been touted as a cheaper, more efficient way to get broadband service to customers who aren't easily reached with cable companies'
service or DSL service from telephone companies, or wireless service from a cellular phone company or wireless broadband company.
BPL also competes head-to-head with established broadband providers, as Current
is doing in
As it plans for TXU, Current is building a network atop Cinergy's system to help Cinergy keep track of its power grid.
TXU and Current will begin designing the network that will overlay TXU's electric distribution system. Construction is expected to begin in the first half of 2006, with the first BPL service for consumers not expected before the second half of the year.
Communications' BPL network will cover about 2 million homes and businesses in
TXU Energy, Reliant and other retailers obtain power over TXU Electric Delivery's grid.
With the consumer application not coming until later, TXU and Current officials touted the smart-grid functions, which will allow TXU to monitor its widespread system. TXU Electric Delivery, a part of TXU Corp. and formerly called Oncor, operates more than 14,000 miles of transmission lines and 100,000 miles of distribution lines taking electricity to 3 million customers.
"Current's BPL solution is a critical enabler of our mission to dramatically improve the way we deliver electricity," TXU Electric Delivery chairman and chief executive Tom Baker said.
"BPL will enable us to respond more quickly and efficiently to outages of all magnitudes, manage our distribution network more proactively and further safeguard our dispersed critical assets in today's heightened security environment," he said.
Added TXU spokesman Chris Schein: "We're looking at ways to increase the system reliability and make it really a 21st-century grid."
part of the deal, TXU would become an equity partner in privately held Current,
which is based in
William H. Berkman, chairman and co-founder of Current Communications Group and managing partner of Liberty Associated Partners, said the TXU deal "is solid evidence of how BPL answers the federal government's recent call to create a more efficient and reliable 21st-century electricity distribution network."
One of the promised features of BPL is the ability to read meters without having to send an employee. Mr. Schein did not commit TXU Electric Delivery to using that function but said it was a possibility.
"We have been in the process of installing automated meter readers," he said. "That certainly is a capability that will be available."
Last summer, the Texas Legislature approved a wide-reaching telecom bill that set rules for installing BPL systems on electric lines. The service faced heavy opposition from amateur radio operators concerned that radio waves from BPL systems would interfere with existing wireless systems.
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How it works
Broadband over power lines (BPL), still in its infancy, carries a broadband Internet signal over the electricity grid. Here's a simple explanation of a complicated technology:
A high-speed broadband line sends the signal to a device that puts it onto a power line delivering electricity.
Devices to repeat the signal are used to keep it strong as it moves along the line, as necessary.
Another device extracts the signal from the line and carries it into the electrical system of a home or business.
Devices that plug into standard 110-volt outlets pick up the broadband signal, translate it and carry it to a computer or other equipment.
How much it costs
Inc., formerly SBC Communications, has promotional rates offering its DSL
384 kilobits to 1.5 megabits per second and $21.99 for 1.5 to 3 megabits, with a six-month commitment. Customers billed month-to-month pay $34.99 for the slower speeds and $39.99 for the faster speeds. AT&T also has a tier of service offering speeds of 1.5 to 6 megabits per second for $49.99.
Comcast's regular price for at least 4-megabits-per-second downloads is
$52.95 for customers who don't also buy its cable TV service, or $42.95 for cable customers. It has a current promotion offering 6-megabit speeds for $19.99 for the first three months for new Comcast broadband customers.
SOURCES: Public Utility Commission of Texas; broadband providers; Dallas Morning News research
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