Among many technological advances, high speed Internet is perhaps one of the most valuable and valued. But its expansion has been limited by the need to install the cables that provide the service. Rural areas and extensive regions of the developing world have been left out. Now a newer technology can offer the possibility of high speed Internet over power lines. Yes, it's high-speed Internet service from electrical sockets.
"Through this little box and those devices on the wall, we're taking Internet to 300 rooms," says Larry McClung, Vice President of Broadband Horizons.
Mr. McClung is taking part in the extensive renovation of the old Tropicana River Walk Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. He and his team are installing high-speed Internet service to the guest rooms and the large social areas of the hotel.
But, as is the case with older buildings, trying to install new cables can be costly and difficult. So they are bringing high speed Internet through a small box into the hotel's central electrical room, converting the data signal into a radio frequency and then, by means of a couple of devices, putting that into the electrical wiring of the entire hotel.
The installation is clean, fast and easy. All they have to do is connect a modem to the electric socket and then the computer to the modem. After a few try configuring the modem to the system, the signal comes in strong and clear.
Down in the electrical control room, engineer Mike Montz is adapting all the modems, not just for the rooms but also to provide wireless service in the big social areas.
"I am just getting this thing configured,” says Mike. “We have to cut it in half and do some networking mumbo jumbo [technical work]."
"We'll install a wireless access point, for example, on that swimming pool building, right there, that will distribute the signal and the Internet signal will get to that wireless access point through the electrical wiring in the building," said Mr. McClung.
Once installation is finished, every client of the hotel who wants Internet service will receive a modem to plug in to any electric socket of his or her living area, including the bathroom.
But this is just one of the applications of this new technology known as Broadband over Power Lines -- or BPL. Rural areas and small towns can be connected to high speed Internet in a matter of a few days.
Flatonia, Texas is a town with just 2,000 inhabitants. The City Council invited Broadband Horizons to test the BPL system in their town, where only dial-up Internet, over phone lines, was available.
"This has been just a very nice added feature to have at my disposal; I can call it up any time and don't have to worry about dial-in and tying up the phone line," says Paula Krametbaver, a florist and owner of a gift shop, which was chosen to be part of the test.
The broadband Internet service in Flatonia is slightly different. It is a hybrid. As Weyland Simmons, director of Technology and Engineering at Broadband Horizons explains, the Internet signal comes through a satellite antenna on top of the city hall.
"Then we have another small antenna that connects this device called the injector. This injector takes the Internet signal and puts it in the power line."
BPL may only be getting started.
"Every thing we read says that this BPL technology is going to continue to grow in terms of capability and speed.” says Larry McClung. “Very soon we'll see it capable of delivering speeds fast enough to carry multi-channel video, for example."
Some experts think high speed Internet with broadband technology over power lines will spread around the globe.