Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) and Amateur Radio

BPL hardware installed in RPU/HBC trial area in Rochester, MN.
Broadband over Power Lines, or simply BPL, is a form of computer or digital communications over a power line system. In-building BPL technology uses the electrical wiring within a building to network computers. Access BPL uses the electrical power distribution grid to provide broadband internet access to home and businesses.

BPL proponents (primarily communications and power companies) view the technology as a new business opportunity. Opponents (amateur radio organizations, regulatory organizations, and other users of the radio HF and lower VHF spectrum from around the world) oppose introduction of the BPL technology since it will adversely impact radio communications. Amateur radio HF operations may also adversely affect BPL operations.

It is important that all area amateurs understand the implications of BPL technology on amateur radio communications. Please see the following for information on the BPL technology, possible implications on RF spectrum communications, and the Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) BPL trials and plans.

Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) Announces Plan for BPL Trial

On Monday, February 2, 2004, Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) issued a news release announcing their intention to study and conduct a trial of broadband power line technology (commonly known as BPL). The BPL trial is in association with Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Inc. (HBCI) of Winona. The Shpigler Group, a strategy management and consulting service based in New York, has been retained by the two firms (RPU and HBCI) to plan and monitor the test. RPU has budgeted about $50,000 to buy equipment for the test. The hardware vendor selected for the trial is Main.net Power Line Communications. The initial RPU/HBCI BPL field trial was activated on July 15 with approximately seven homes.

In March, 2005, RPU stated that a "business case can be made for BPL" and that a "request for proposals" would be issued to solict companies willing to implement the system in Rochester. The RFP was issued in April with only one response received. In October, 2005, RPU indicated negotiations had stalled with BPL hardware provider Current Communications Group. Current Communications Group was the only BPL hardware provider, along with internet services provded Hiawatha Communications, Inc., who responded to the RFP request for proposal, but RPU decided that their hardware package was not a good fit here.

Information links:

RARC BPL Measurements

Radio frequency noise measurements at the RPU/HBC BPL trial site were made beginning in late May by RARC club members Mel KCØP and Niel WØVLZ. Measurements were taken on multiple days to establish baseline RF noise levels, noise levels during initial BPL system operation and noise levels after amateur radio band notching had been implemented by the BPL system. Measurements were taken on all amateur bands from 160M through 6M.

Detailed summary of BPL trial measurements.

BPL Main.net Measurement Observations - WØVLZ
Additional BPL Main.net Observations - WØVLZ

The following audio recordings were made on September 7, 2004.

Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) BPL Trial Chronology

Date Item
October 27, 2005 In a Post-Bulletin article published on October 27, 2005, RPU indicated that their plans to provide broadband internet service in Rochester has been delayed three to four months due to a breakdown in negotiations with Current Communications Group. Current was the only company along with internet service provider Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Inc. of Winona, to respond to the request for proposal issued by RPU in April, 2005. According to Dan Sturm, RPU's supervisor of technical services, the Current Communications Group's BPL technology is "excellent", but "they don't meet our needs."

RPU plans to release another request for proposals in the next couple of months. Installation of transmission equipment would then likely be installed next year. RPU's Jim Walters indicated that it will take about two years to install all of the equipment required to offer the broadband service citywide.

July 12, 2005 Mel KCØP described what he could, at the July RARC club meeting, of his recent trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, which was paid for by RPU and required a non-disclosure agreement with RPU. RPU is considering working with the same company that has set up the system there, Current Technology. The RF interference measurement data taken by Mel in Cinncinnati is being reviewed by RPU.
Junel 18, 2005
Click for more photos
KCØP and the portable antenna setup used to measure BPL RF emissions in Ohio.
Click on image for more photos.
Mel KCØP is traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio, on Monday, June 20, to take BPL RF emission measurements at the request of Rochester Public Utilities. To take the measurements, both within and outside of the amateur bands, Mel has mounted a screwdriver antenna on his vehicle that can be tuned for essentially any frequency from about 4 MHz through 50 MHz. The measurements at the different frequencies will be taken using the screwdriver antenna and a ICOM 706MKIIG transceiver.
April 18, 2005 In an editorial on April 16, the Rochester Post-Bulletin newpaper encouraged the city of Rochester to deploy a city-wide, wireless high speed internet technology. The newspaper editorial follows a recent announcement that Minneapolis is planning to accept bids for a city-wide wireless technology implementation to improve city services and to attract high technology businesses to the city.

On April 18, Midwest Wireless (a regional cellular telephone company) announced a new technology version of their high speed internet service called ClearWave. The previous "line-of-sight" technology, using 2.4 GHz and FHSS (Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum) technology is being replaced by a new, "near-line-of-sight" technology using 5.8 GHZ ODFM (Orthogonal Data Frequency Multiplexing) technology. The wireless high speed internet service has been deployed throughout Olmsted county, including the city of Rochester, and in the southeast Minnesota region. The useable range from a tower site can be up to 10 miles for line-of-sight installations and up to 3 miles for near-line-of-sight operation.

Midwest Wireless also announced the deployment of the EV-DO cellular high speed internet service throughout their regional service area. The cellular based internet service provides download speeds up to 700 Kb.

The announcements represent just some of the deployments of wireless high speed interenet service that do not generate RF interference to other users of the radio spectrum.

April 12, 2005 The RPU BPL Communications bid "request for proposal" was released on Monday, April 11, 2005. Bid proposals are being requested by May 2, 2005. The measurement trip planned by RPU to Cincinnati, Ohio, has been postponed until May. RARC club member Mel Larson KCØP has been invited by RPU to participate in the BPL measurement trip.
March 30, 2005 The RPU Board has approved advertising for bids for BPL system implementation. A detailed business case is expected by the June Board meeting.
RPU BPL Communications Bid Approval

RPU also released an updated FAQ on Broadband Over Power Lines on their web site.
FAQ Update - Broadband Over Power Lines

March 29, 2005 The Rochester City Council has authorized Rochester Public Utilities to go ahead and seek a partner to provide commercial BPL service at a meeting on March 29. RPU indicates that the BPL test with Hiawatha Broadband Communications of Winona was, for the most part, successful. In a Post-Bulletin article, Walt Lorber, RPU's direction of operations, indicated that RPU receives calls asking whether RPU is going forward with BPL service and "I haven't heard any negatives."

RPU is intended to find a commercial partner with the utility acting as landlord by leasing the power system lines and infrastructure. The RPU Board is meeting on March 29 to discuss how to process on the BPL system.

March 28, 2005 In a letter to the Rochester Public Utilities Board, RPU has indicated that results of the BPL trial conducted in 2004 in an area of south Rochester "supports conclusion that a business case can be made to lease the use of the City's electrical distribution system to a BPL communication provider." RPU is presenting a proposal to the Rochester City Council on March 28 requesting permission to solicit proposals and to negotiate leasing terms with a vendor.

In background information provided to the City County prior to the meeting on March 28, RPU indicates that the FCC has recently updated their standards governing BPL operation and that BPL manufacturers are satisfied that they meet the new standard. RPU indicates that they have worked closely with local hams in making noise measurements during the technicial BPL trial in Rochester. There was no mention of the actual noise interference measurements that were made or the fact that no hams reside within the BPL trial area.

RPU References:
Memo Being Circulated to RPU Board
RPU Information Provided to Rochester City Council

January 6, 2005 RPU/HBC issued a news release, dated December 10, 2004, providing an updated BPL testing schedule. The updated schedule extends Phase 1 of the BPL technology trial into 2005 and also indicates that an additional hardware vendor. The new release also indicates that the initially proposed Phase 2 market trial may not be required.since "This vendor has a model that’s been validated in several communities, which may make a market test unnecessary.” HBC will perform a business case analysis for a wide-scale commercial offering in first quarter of 2005.
December 20, 2004 The Rochester Amateur Radio Club is cited in the editorial by ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, entitled "No Complaint, No Interference" published in the January, 2005, issue of QST magazine. The editorial on BPL noted that RARC "has been able to work cooperatively with Rochester Public Utilities in their evaluation of BPL and has documented interference to as well as interference from BPL."
December 4, 2004 In an interview for the Post-Bulletin newspaper on the latest RPU BPL status, RPU's supervisor of technicial services, Dan Sturm, stated that "It works, it proved out. There were issues with it, but they were somewhat minor issues." The published article indicates that most of problems were in testing at Hy-Vee South and First Baptist Church. Sturm also indicated that the equipment and technical support from Main.net Powerline Communications was not wholly satisfactory. Next year, according to Sturm, RPU and Hiawatha Communications intend to test new equipment supplied by Current Technologies of Germantown, MD.
(Full article)
October 24, 2004
Click for larger image
Despite a light rain, Niel WØVLZ, Ed W1RFI and Mel KCØP took BPL interference measurements at the BPL trial site on Friday, October 22. (Click to view a larger image.)
Ed Hare W1RFI, the ARRL Laboratory Manager, visited the Rochester BPL trial site on Friday, October 22. Ed reviewed the BPL trial interference measurements taken during the past few months by Mel KCØP and Niel WØVLZ and also met with RARC officers Fred K4IU and Chuck N2DUP. Some BPL interference measurements were taken using W1RFI's BPL monitoring equipment.

On Saturday, October 23, Ed gave a two hour presentation on BPL at the Hamfest Minnesota event in St. Paul. Mel KCØP gave a brief presentation and review of the Rochester BPL trial measurements at the hamfest seminar.

October 18, 2004 Rochester Post-Bulletin published the following editorial comments on October 18, 2004.
RPU should jump into broadband
The Federal Communications Commission has ruled that utility companies, such as Rochester Public Utilities, can freely offer broadband Internet services to customers. This is a wise move.
By allowing utility companies to deliver Internet access through power lines, the FCC made a significant effort to expand competition. This will lower rates and improve services.
RPU is curretly testing Internet delivery over power lines. The FCC's decision opens the door for a full rollout. The RPU board should jump in with both feet.
October 11, 2004 Gary Evans, President and CEO of Hiawatha Broadband Communications and Dan Sturm of Rochester Public Utilities gave a presentation and answered questions on BPL at a meeting hosted by the Southern Minnesota Section IEEE on Monday, October 11. The meeting was attended by approximately 200 people including a few amateur radio operators. About 15 minutes of the question and answer session was focused on interference generated by BPL systems and BPL susceptibility to RF transmissions.
September 30, 2004 RPU signs new BPL agreements.
September 24, 2004 In a letter to Dan Sturm, Supervisor of RPU Technical Services, RARC president Fred K4IU summarized the results of measurements and observations of the HF specturm in the area of the current BPL trial. Interference has been observed throughout the 2-23 MHz frequency spectrum and is not limited to just the amateur bands. The letter noted that more work is needed to reduce the interference in order to comply with the current FCC Part 15 regulations.
September 7, 2004 BPL trial measurements were made by Mel KCØP and Niel WØVLZ. Detail summary of multiple measurements taken over several days since late May was posted on RARC web site and also is being sent to Ed W1RFI at ARRL. Audio files of BPL interference at 3.924 MHz and 15 MHz WWV are posted on web site.
September 3, 2004 The RPU/HBC BPL trial continues with nine subscribers. Additional monitoring was made by KCØP and WØVLZ after notching of amateur band frequencies by the BPL system. No significant reduction in interference levels was observed. The RPU technical trial will be prolonged and the planned upgrade to the next generation of Main.net's hardware has been delayed due to production problems.
August 31, 2004 RPU has published an announcement entitled HBC and RPU Successfully Launch Broadband over Power Lines Test, dated July 29, regarding the BPL trial on the RPU web site. The announcement note indicates that RPU now have two commericial customers. One of the customers is interested in using the BPL technology to privide internet services via a wireless connection.
July 30, 2004 RARC club members have monitored progress of the BPL trial operation since activation on July 15. Emissions from the BPL site have been detected and measured using ham equipment. RARC president Fred K4IU met with RPU representatives Dan Sturm and Bill Majerus on July 27 to discuss BPL trial progress and future testing. RPU plans to lower repeater power settings and experiment with frequency notching algorithms that hardware provider Main.net has used in other trials. Mel KCØP will continue to monitor emissions from the BPL trial on the HF amateur radio bands.

HBC plans to begin testing on August 3 of VOIP (Voice-Over-IP) and power metering at the south Hy-Vee grocery store. The upgrade to the "next generation" hardware from Main.net is targeted for September.

July 17, 2004 Click for larger image. The RPU/HBC BPL trail site was activitated with the first home connected on Thursday, July 15. According to a Post-Bulletin article, seven BPL hookups were complete by Friday and three more are planned next week for a total of ten. The initial transmission rate is 400 Kbaud with higher rates possible at a later time.

Photo at right shows BPL injector (black box), repeater (gray box) and RF coupler between power phase lines installed in BPL trial area. (Click on photo for larger image.)

July 13, 2004 Fred K4IU and Mel KCØP met with a Main.net representative on Monday, June 12. The plans for the three month technical BPL trial, targeted to begin within a few days, were discussed. One injector and 2 repeaters are planned to be installed in the trail area in south-central Rochester this week. A total of 6 repeaters are planned for the trail area with two below ground. The power levels and frequency nothing is claimed to be controled from a control center located in Winona. The Main.net BPL hardware utilizes frequencies from 2-30 MHz and DSSS (Direct Sequency Spread Spectrum) technology. The hardware will be upgraded to a "new generation" version using OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) technology in about three months.

Mel KC0P review the BPL trial status and his baseline noise mesurments made over the past few weeks in the BPL trail area at the July club meeting.

July 11, 2004 Activation of the BPL trial site has been delayed by approximately two weeks beyond the original target date of July 1. Main.Net personnel are expected to be in Rochester on July 12 for training purposes prior to activation.
June 8, 2004 At the June RARC monthly meeting, Mel KCØP reported on the status of noise level measurements taken in the proposed BPL trial neighborhood on three separate days. Signal and noise levels were monitored on all amateur bands from 80 to 6 meters using a mobile transceiver (IC706MKIIG) and a Hustler mobile antenna. Particular attention was paid to noise levels on the 20 meter band. While signal and noise levels on the bands varied from day to day, Mel characterized the neighborhood as "a fairly quiet electrical environment." Fred K4IU indicated that RPU has been asked to identify the injection point of the BPL broadband feed, but RPU indicated that they did not yet know the information.
May 10, 2004 Jeff Pieter's column in Rochester Post-Bulletin references concerns by Rochester hams about upcoming RPU BPL trials in Rochester. Chuck Gysi N2DUP, RARC Public Information Officer, is quoted in the article.
April 23, 2004 RPU has tentatively identified the BPL trial area in south Rochester. The area, approximately 10 square blocks, is bounded on the west by the Zumbro River, on the east by Broadway (Highway 63 South), on the north by 12th Street SW and the south by 16th Street SW. No Rochester hams reside in the proposed trial area. Main.net-Power Line Communications, Inc. (http://www.powerline-plc.com) of Reston, VA, has been selected as the initial hardware vendor. Main.net claims to be working with 40 power utilities in 15 countries on BPL trials and implementations.
April 5, 2004 Article in Post-Bulletin by Jeff Pieters indicates that RPU has selected 10 customers to be part of the initial BPL trial.
April 2, 2004 Fred, K4IU, and Chuck, N2DUP, participate in a conference phone call with hams in the Cincinnati and North Carolina areas as well as Ed Hare, W1RFI, of ARRL HQ, to discuss and share BPL strategies in working with utilities.
March 31, 2004 Rochester Post-Bulletin "RPU, Hiawatha to test broadband"
The RPU Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a formal agreement with the partner, Hiawatha Broadband Communications, to allow Hiawatha and the utility to install equipment and jointly conduct BPL field tests.
March 30, 2004 The BPL trial contract between Rochester Public Utilities and Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Inc. for the BPL Trial was approved on March 30, 2004. The contact can be viewed on the RPU web site (PDF file).
March 17, 2004 RPU releases BPL FAQ (Click on News items to view FAQ page.)
March 9, 2004
Click for larger image RPU Operations Manager Gerald Steffens addresses hams at RARC club meeting.
Representative from both RPU and HBC attended the monthly RARC club meeting. The overall goals and objectives of the joint RPU/HBC BPL trial were discussed. The RPU representatives addressed a set of questions from RARC club members that had been previously submitted to RARC president, Fred K4IU. The RPU representatives indicated that interference assessment was a consideration in their BPL trial and they requested RARC representation and involvement.
February 24, 2004 Chuck Gysi ( N2DUP), RARC Public Information Officer, gives presentation at RPU Board Meeting.
February 20, 2004 RochesterPost-Bulletin "Broadband Test Set For July 1"
RPU and HBC will go forward with a technical BPL test about July 1. The test will involve 10-20 RPU customers on Rochester's southeast side. A larger market study is expected to proceed about October 1 with about 100 RPU customers. The geographic area for the market study has not been determined. The Shpigler Group consultant provided a written report to RPU and Hiawatha Broadband officials on Tuesday, February 17, 2004.
February 8, 2004 Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) representatives will give a presentation on the Rochester BPL trial at the monthly meeting of the Rochester Amateur Radio Club on March 9, 2004
February 4, 2004 Winona Daily News article on RPU/HBC BPL Trial
HBC president Gary Evans indicates initial BPL trial in Rochester to include about two dozen homes over several months.
February 3, 2004 Rochester Post-Bulletin "RPU Explores High-Speed Internet Using Power Lines
Article indicates that The Shpigler Group is to complete the design of the RPU/HBC BPL trial in Rochester on February 16, 2004.
February 2, 2004 Hiawatha Broadband Communications Media Advisory - HBC News Release
February 2, 2004 HBC, RPU Sets Broadband Power Line Trial - RPU News Release
January 30, 2004 Rochester Post-Bulletin "Broadband Internet Test Comes to Rochester
RPU and HBC are to announce a pilot plan to test broadband Internet service in Rochester on February 2, 2004.

ARRL BPL Information Links

Government BPL Information Links

Date Link
October 28, 2004 FCC BPL Report and Order - Released October 28, 2004
May 5, 2004 Boeing NOI Comments (PDF)
IEEE NOI Comments (PDF)
April 27, 2004 NTIA BPL Report - Phase I
Phase 1 of Department of Commerce NTIA ( National Telecommunications and Information Administration) report on BPL technology interference to government systems.
March 23, 2004 Amendment of Part 15 Regarding New Requirements and Measurement Guidelines for Access Broadband over Power Line Systems
February 23, 2004 FCC Issues Proposed Rules (NPRM) for Broadband Over Power Lines
| FCC Site | Word Format | Adobe Format |
April 28, 2003 FCC Inquiry Regarding Carrier Current Systems, Including Broadband over Power Lines
FCC Notice of Inquiry (NOI) for Broadband Over Power Lines (BPL)

Other BPL Information Links

The following is a selected list of information links on BPL.


Questions, comments or updates on this web page? Send an e-mail to ac0id@arrl.net



Last update: February 17, 2008