At one point, BPL was seen as the third broadband leg: Cable, DSL, and BPL would provide robust competition in the marketplace. Instead, it's turning out to be cable, DSL, and much slower wireless today with WiMax potentially tomorrow. But BPL just got some traction with a Texas deal.
Current Communications Group and TXU Electric Delivery will offer BPL to two million Texas customers by the end of 2006 in busy markets like Dallas-Ft. Worth. They've chosen the correct flavor, and that's been one of the battles. Broadband can't transit transformers directly, and the "final 50 feet," let's say, has been tricky.
There have been many proposals to stick Wi-Fi transmitters on the transformers to bridge that gap; other methods, which seem superior, extract the data from the line coming into the transformer and connect it to the feed to a customer's house. The latter is what Current/TXU seems to use because customers need only plug in a device into an power outlet to use the service.
TXU will pay $150 million to Current for a variety of utility-related services that the network will allow, including monitoring for line breaks and potentially remotely turning off service, which requires a truck roll now. I've heard from other utilities that remote meter reading is huge as well. Electrical meters are replaced on a regular duty cycle that can span decades, and there's always new construction. This allows a rollout of BPL-based meters to a relatively large minority of homes quickly.
Because these two firms are using the direct outlet method of BPL, devices like soda machines could report their status.