Software Radio’s Implications For Broadband Over Power Wires

Over at Marginal Revolution Tyler has a neat post on software radio; the post also includes some useful background links that I will not reproduce here.

Tyler (and Robin) are right: this is huge. Over and over we see technological change moving the scarcity constraints facing us. In this case, it’s radio spectrum that will become more plentiful as radio interference diminishes through the use of this kind of technology.

In addition to what Tyler noted, I’d also like to point out that this technology makes the embryonic broadband over power wires technology more feasible and more commercially viable. For broadband over power wires to work, the signal has to “jump” the transformer that changes the voltage along the power line. The currently used technology for accomplishing that jump is standard wireless. Unfortunately, the proliferation of such wireless devices to jump transformers is very likely to create a lot of radio interference. This means that otherwise tech dynamist folks who are ham radio operators and have backgrounds in shortwave oppose broadband over power wires, not because of the concept, but because the wireless used to jump the transformers creates so much interference in their slice of the spectrum. This technology will lessen that conflict.

Way cool!

As a coda, another way that analog-to-digital converters could affect the electric power industry is that these converters have made it possible to monitor and gather data in real time on energy current flowing through a wire. Analog-to-digital conversion makes it technologically possible to unbundle the sale of electricity to end customers from the sale of the wire transmission service used to transport the electricity to the end customer. Unfortunately, the regulatory environment (by which I mean the symbiotic co-dependency of the regulator and the vertically integrated regulated firm) prevents that unbundling from occurring, depriving customers of the opportunity to procure their electricity from dynamic, competitive retailers.

Sigh …

One thought on “Software Radio’s Implications For Broadband Over Power Wires

  1. I hope that things are as rosy as the links make them out to be, but I am still skeptical, especially regarding broadband over powerlines.

    In my experience, the powerlines in homes are a huge source of electromagnetic interference. I have a HDTV that I use to view digital television broadcasts, and the powerlines within my house have caused me trouble. For example, if you use the light switch in my kitchen, it knocks out the HDTV signal for a moment! My analog tv signal is full of EMI, with lots of snow.

    It seems to me that powerline broadband systems generate interference by their very nature (high frequencies transmitted over wires with no shielding whatsoever), not the need for a wireless jump across transformers. So it seems to me that the links may be underestimating the problems that this technology will cause.

    Now, perhaps we cheap bastards that still use antennas to recieve free television should be sacrificed to the gods of economics. The market for powerline braodband may dwarf that of braodcast television. We could be forced to go with cable or satellite. Perhaps we could be bought off. Ditto for the ham radio geeks.

    Or maybe the links are correct, and signal jumping, active antennas, etc. will work in the near future. I certainly hope that I am wrong.

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