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Keith MacLean of SSE Telecom talks to ISP Review
Friday 10 October 2003 16:09:00 by Andrew Ferguson

ISPReview have published their second interview with Keith MacLean of SSE Telecom in relation to their Powerline broadband service. Powerline broadband (PLC) makes use of the local mains network to connect properties to the Internet.

The full interview can be read here. In terms of prospects for the UK, there are 3.3 million households in the Scottish Hydro-Electric and Southern Electric areas. This compares to 29 million phone lines, so unless there is interest from other power providers, PLC may provide just a regional service. On a more upbeat note they have been able to push upto 15Mbps of traffic across a single line. For people in rural areas there is a caveat about the possibility that isolated properties may be uncommerical and that while urban roll-out may be done on a risk taking basis, less urban areas will have to collect registrations of interest, similar to the BT ADSL roll-out.

One area of concern was question (10), which appears to be saying that 2Mbps of bandwidth is shared between fifty users, experience in the ADSL field of putting more than a few users with 2Mbps connections on a 2Mbps back-haul suggests that the user experience may be less than satisfactory once more than casual users are connected.

Much of the discussion between people in our forums, and places like ISPReview and BroadbandReports.com has been about the regulatory issues relating to interference. Keith MacLean does answer some questions in this area, and to quote Mr MacLean "The full RA report is available on the web and the RA has also recently confirmed that despite the levels outlined in these reports no interference cases have arisen from the trials in Scotland".

One of the big problems with PLC is that all parties are working in the dark largely, mainly because large commercial roll-out of PLC is still in its early stages. Additionally it is hard to tell what is a technical fact and what is protection of their own interests in an area. At this time while the kit is covered by the generic CE mark, the network itself has no defined regulatory standard. A standard that all services operating in the under 30Mhz band that will control the radiated emissions is under development and is called MPT1570, a summary can read here. The full MPT1570 specification can be downloaded from www.radio.gov.uk here (Word doc 102KB).

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