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Broadband Over Powerlines is Still Emerging

The number of U.S. households subscribing to broadband over power line (BPL) services will increase from 400,000 in 2007 to 2.5 million by 2011, according to a market study entitled "FTTx and BPL: Analysis and Outlook."

This new report from Parks Associates concludes that consumer and competitive demands will lead to a strong growth rate in residential subscribers for BPL, outpacing other access methods such as DSL and cable over the next five years.

"Both consumer demand and business factors will drive this growth," said Chris Roden, research analyst at Parks Associates. "On the consumer side, many rural residents don't have access to DSL or cable, but every house in the U.S. has access to power lines. This technology is often the only option for these residents to receive broadband service. On the business side, utility companies will also drive BPL's growth. BPL gives utilities more information to better manage power demand and troubleshoot line issues."

"FTTx and BPL: Analysis and Outlook" analyzes market trends and significant events that will impact FTTx and BPL deployments over the next five years. It also addresses consumer and competitive pressures that will influence these methods, the economics associated with the deployment of these technologies and the opportunities FTTx and BPL provides for vendors and service providers.

Frankly, the technology has been 'emerging' for several years now, and I'm skeptical about the potential of BPL for anything other than in-home multimedia distribution applications -- which are proven to work well. About six months ago I performed a thorough BPL assessment for a client, based upon market research from a variety of different sources.

My conclusion, the various market trials that utilized BPL for broadband access delivery to homes were not promising enough to develop significant market momentum. The problems, as I recall, were a combination of regulatory issues, infrastructure construction costs, technical standards and incompatibility between BPL vendors, and also service provider operational cost challenges.

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