2007 Global BPL - Utilities Moving Towards Broadbanded Smart Grids

Publication Overview

This annual report offers a wealth of information on the worldwide development of Broadband Power Line. Information on a regional level is also provided for the Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific. The report includes analyses, statistics and trends. It provides information and statistics on BPL development, including information on deployments. In particular the report examines BPL in terms of Smart Grids. Detailed technical information on BPL technology is also provided.

Subjects covered include:

  • BPL trends and developments;
  • Smart Grids and Energy Management;
  • Multi-utility market;
  • BPL deployment;
  • Home Plug and Demand Side Management (DSM);
  • Regional Overview;
  • Technical information including architecture, standards, access systems and interference.

Executive Summary

It is important to realise that Broadband Power Line (BPL) is more than a simple access technology and because of this it is not necessarily competing with other forms of broadband access such as DSL and wireless. A key differentiator is that these other technologies end at the switchbox in the premises, while BPL delivers to every power point in the house or business.

Furthermore, BPL can be a third access technology after telecoms and broadcasting. It has a range of extra opportunities that the other technologies don’t have. New developments in Demand Side Management (DSM) with home automation and home management are opening up. One example includes Automatic Reader Meter (AMR) facilities (ie Smart Meters), which would be of advantage to both the utility and end-user. For more information, see chapter 3, page 27.

These opportunities have led to the focus of BPL changing over the past year or so; from broadband connectivity to smart meters on broadband infrastructure. Global warming issues and the emerging energy crisis have also propelled some governments and utilities to look at the national rollout of energy-saving smart meters.

Our prosperity and way of life depends upon efficient and affordable energy. Based on current forecasts, the world will invest trillions of dollars in new (conventional) electricity grids. These investments are simply needed to meet expected growth. However the production and use of electricity accounts for around 40% of greenhouse gases, making the industry the single largest polluter. Smart meters would allow householders to reduce energy costs and energy companies to better manage their network.

This meter overhaul is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to propel utilities to the forefront of BPL development. BuddeComm advocates that a smart grid is needed as it could save energy costs, be good for the environment, cut operational network costs and open up opportunities for new home automation and home networking business opportunities. For more information, see chapter 1.2, page 14.

The next step for BPL is to make the transition from the current trial status to the commercial arena, and this will require the establishment of an appropriate regulatory framework. In general terms, positive developments on that level are taking place around the globe. But as with most new technologies, progress is slow with full standardisation not expected until 2008. Although equipment prices have dropped drastically already, the key problem in 2007 still remains the high equipment costs. While some relief is expected, large scale rollouts will not occur before full standardisation has taken place. For more information, see chapter 1.1, page 1.

This report provides an insight and analysis into the trends and developments occurring in the BPL sector, with a focus on Smart Grids/Smart Meters. A global overview of the progress of BPL is provided, as well as information on a regional level including North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific.

Key Highlights:

  • The telecoms developments in the utilities market have come full circle. In the 1980s the utilities started talking about DSM and looked towards telecoms facilities as a way to provide more utility applications. Twenty years later we have come full circle with telecoms (now broadband) again a focus of the utility sector. For more information, see chapter 1, page 1.

Smart grid applications

For utilities companies:
  • Outage identification and reporting;
  • Automated electric and water meter reading (AMR);
  • Demand response management;
  • Video surveillance through BPL-enabled video cameras placed on the power grid;
  • Street light management;
  • Solar power system that integrates energy storage technologies, load measurement and control devices and renewable energy sources;
  • Line sag detection, to remotely sense when distribution lines drop to potentially hazardous heights.
For consumers:
  • Home energy management;
  • Internet access and standard ISP service;
  • Voice over IP telephone service;
  • Security and intelligent home service through an always on, monitored wireless system.
(Source: BuddeComm 2007)

  • Looking to the future, utilities cannot fail to see the potential business opportunities in the telecommunications market as their Customer Access Network (CAN) infrastructure has a similar coverage to that of the incumbent telco. Utilities are uniquely positioned to roll out state-of-the-art broadband networks by leveraging off their existing infrastructure. Utilities are also unhampered by the legacy of a large copper-based network. For more information, see chapter 2, page 21.
  • Around the world in 2007 around 100 commercial BPL trials are taking place (similar to 2006), with around a third of these under way in the US.
  • In the US, despite imposing competition from cable and fibre deployments, there remains positive interest in BPL, most recently with DIRECTV alluding to possible trials. For more information, see chapter 4.2.1, page 36.
  • In Canada, BPL deployments are relatively rare with most commercial BPL deployments being in the form of low-voltage BPL solutions within hotels. For more information, see chapter 4.2.2, page 37.
  • Power line reached some 450,000 European households in mid-2007, yet the number of people taking broadband through technology remained small, at around 30,000. For more information, see chapter 4.4.1, page 40.
  • In most African countries, the power grids connect far more households than the fixed-line telephone networks, potentially creating a huge market for Power Line Communication (PLC) based services. For more information, see chapter 4.5.1, page 42.

Table of Contents

1.1Trends and developments
1.1.3BPL SWOT analysis
1.1.4Selecting the right business model
1.1.5Utilities as telcos
1.1.6Third broadband network into the home
1.1.7The market in 2007 – full circle for utilities telecoms
1.1.8Other developments
1.1.9Forecasting BPL
1.1.10Difficulty in developing a global standard
1.1.11Vendor examples
1.2Smart grids and energy management
1.2.2What is a smart grid?
1.2.3Current grid outmoded and outdated
1.2.4Old technologies, and no young engineers
1.2.5The reality of global warming
1.2.6Demand in energy bigger than ever before
1.2.7Trillions to be spent on electricity grids
1.2.8Global warming and energy saving
1.2.9Carbon trading will facilitate smart grids
1.2.10Background on GridWise
2.1The need to expand beyond electricity
2.2Electricity broadband – a comparison
2.3Various business models
2.4Multi-services companies
2.5Utilities important factor in facilities-based telecoms competition
2.6UtiliTel national infrastructure cooperation
2.7Start with existing network
2.8Broadbanding of local communities
2.9Utilities slowly but surely moving forward
3.2.2Every socket a telco outlet
3.2.3Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM)
3.2.456 bit DES
3.2.6Reach - with and beyond each home
3.2.7HomePlug Powerline Alliance
3.3Demand Side Management/Energy Management services
3.3.2Definition and overview of services
3.3.3Changes in society
3.3.4BPL for home automation services
3.3.5DSM applications for residential users
3.4Smart meters should be based on broadband – analysis
3.4.2Decision-making time
3.4.3Smart meters or smart networks?
3.4.4Demand-side management
3.4.5PLC and BPL
3.4.6Smart solutions = smart national benefits
3.5Other uses of utilities for broadband transmission
4.1.1Utilities – the new force in telecoms
4.1.2Brief overview of selected global developments – 2007
4.2North America
4.3Latin America
4.3.7Costa Rica
4.4.1Western Europe
4.4.2Eastern Europe
4.5Africa / Middle East
4.5.2Middle East
4.6.1Asia market overview
4.6.3South Korea
4.6.5Hong Kong
4.7Pacific region
5.1Architecture and techniques
5.1.2Power infrastructure architectures
5.1.3BPL techniques and architectures
5.1.4Propagation, attenuation, isolation and crosstalk
5.1.5Frequencies and modulation techniques
5.2Standards and HomePlug PLC
5.2.2Technical standards
5.3OPERA, DS2 BPL and co-existence
5.3.2The EU OPERA project
5.3.3Practical data rates
5.3.4Market requirements for access BPL and in-home PLC
5.4BPL access systems
5.4.1Commercial BPL systems
5.4.2Trials and commercial deployment
5.5Interference and challenges
5.5.3A Critical view: considering alternatives
5.5.4Barriers and challenges
5.5.5Electricity Supply Board of Ireland critique
Exhibit 1 – Major BPL players – 2006
Exhibit 2 – Smart grid applications
Exhibit 3 – Case study TXU
Exhibit 4 – Listed energy information/energy management services
Exhibit 5 – Business models
Exhibit 6 – Telco technologies for utilities
Exhibit 7 – Selection of utilities pursuing telecommunications – 2007
Exhibit 8 – Three classes of utilities/carriers
Exhibit 9 – Energy information/energy management services being considered
Exhibit 10 – Smart air-conditioning control
Exhibit 11 - Past and current utilities pursuing telecommunications
Exhibit 12 – OPERA Phase 2 Field Trials

Table 1 – BPL subscribers – EMEA, Americas and Asia-Pacific – 2005*

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Number of pages 130

Status Archived

Last updated 11 Jul 2007
Update History

Analyst: Stephen McNamara

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