LONDON — Though still a niche market, broadband networking over power lines — whether in the home or in the wider area — could turn out to be a major revenue earner for power utilities, according to a just published report form ABI Research.
The researchers say BPL has the general blessing of governments and a reservoir of underdeveloped markets in eastern Europe, China, India and other regions lacking a well-developed communications infrastructure. But, according to Vamsi Sistla, ABI Research's director of broadband, digital home and media, BPL could also benefit legacy businesses such as power utilities in the industrialized world.
"Innovation in powerline technologies may or may not add to power utilities' revenues immediately," he says, "but the cost savings they enable will certainly help their bottom lines."
He adds a fringe benefit of using a region's power grid to carry broadband access networks is that it makes the electricity distribution and monitoring system visible to managers as never before.
As an example of how BPL could make a major impact, Sistla notes the ability to remotely monitor electric meters. Traditionally, a human "meter reader" would visit every customer's household to log power use manually. Even with the later development of "drive-by" meter reading, a driver, a truck and some specialized equipment were required. All of those cost money and time, and ultimately drive up prices.
Grafting a broadband network onto the power grid, on the other hand, means completely remote, automated meter reading, as well as instant reporting of outages and system failures.
"ABI Research believes the utility industry should focus on these low hanging fruits, even more than building BPL capabilities to generate additional revenue," notes Sistla.