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Current Communications to Build BPL "Smart Grid" in Texas

TXU Electric Delivery, a major electric transmission and distribution company based in Texas and CURRENT Communications Group LLC have agree to construct what they say will be the nation's first broadband-enabled "smart" electric grid using TXU's power distribution network. In addition to providing broadband and wireless services to TXU customers, the broadband over power line (BPL) system will allow TX to monitor its electric distribution network remotely in real time and provide automated outage and restoration detection. It will also allow remote, automated meter reading. CURRENT Communications was one of the BPL companies that the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) named as meeting the additional requirements the ARRL proposed for eliminating harmful interference to amateur radio operations.

In the FAQ about CURRENT's BPL solution, CURRENT Communications said, "CURRENT's Cincinnati network is the largest BPL deployment in the United States, and the company operates several other BPL systems as well, but has never had an interference complaint by a spectrum license holder. CURRENT has carefully managed its development efforts to avoid causing interference with all licensed radio systems, amateur radio included."

The article New ARRL Petition Seeks to Resolve BPL Standoff, quotes the ARRL as saying, "It is no longer the case that all BPL systems inherently radiate high levels of RF energy on amateur allocations on overhead medium-voltage power lines." The ARRL added, "In essence, the real divide is that companies such as Motorola, Current Technologies, IBEC and Corridor Systems all have designs that do not use HF at all on overhead power lines, and they avoid the use of amateur radio spectrum in all parts of their systems, other than at 5 MHz."

One of the systems causing a large amount of interference to amateur radio operations is in Manassas, Va. The ARRL sent a strongly worded letter to the FCC complaining that interference problems with that system have not been resolved. ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay commented on meetings between Communications Technology (COMTek) the BPL operator and amateur radio operators. "These meetings have not produced any solution to the interference problem but have, instead, created the illusion that the problem is being addressed. This system should have been taken off the air long ago, pending reconfiguration or re-engineering of it and the only operating that it should be doing is for purposes of interference testing." The Manassas system is using equipment that operates over the municipally owned electric power grid on frequencies between 4 and 30 MHz. See the ARRL article Response to Virginia BPL Interference Complaints an "Illusion" of Resolution" for more information.