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BPL and Amateur Radio. W4FAL N4TAB KN4AQ. BPL and Amateur Radio. What we’ll cover tonight: What is BPL? How does it affect Amateur Radio? Where do we stand? Media Wars Progress Energy Trials What can we do about it?. What is BPL?. B roadband over P ower L ines

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bpl and amateur radio

BPL and Amateur Radio


bpl and amateur radio1
BPL and Amateur Radio

What we’ll cover tonight:

  • What is BPL?
  • How does it affect Amateur Radio?
  • Where do we stand?
  • Media Wars
  • Progress Energy Trials
  • What can we do about it?
what is bpl
What is BPL?
  • Broadband over Power Lines
  • High Speed Internet delivery
  • Radio Frequency signals applied to power lines used to transport data


what is bpl1
What is BPL?
  • Three flavors:
    • PLC (Power Line Carrier)
    • In-Building (Home Plug)
    • Access (neighborhood distribution)


plc power line carrier
PLC (Power Line Carrier)
  • Old news…
  • Low freq (below 500 kHz), used by utility companies for control of their own equipment.
  • No threat to ham radio
  • But, it’s why we didn’t get spectrum around 130 kHz.
in building home plug
In-Building (Home Plug)
  • High Speed LAN in one building using AC power wiring
  • Uses RF across much of the HF spectrum.
  • Causes significant interference
  • Ham bands notched out
    • (but, not 5 MHz)
  • Wi-Fi much more popular
access bpl
Access BPL
  • This is the big problem
  • Neighborhood distribution
    • from substation to home/business
  • RF on power lines from 2 to 80 MHz
  • Internet access from your AC wall plug
  • Cheaper than Cable/DSL?
  • More available, especially rural?
    • That’s what they say…
how does bpl affect hams
How does BPL affect Hams?
  • Interference to HF, low VHF
  • Internet service disruption from Ham transmitters


bpl interference
BPL Interference
  • Low power RF energy applied to unshielded AC wires
  • AC wires act as antennas
  • Signals radiate for hundreds of feet
  • Can be strong – S9+


bpl interference1
BPL Interference
  • Signals cover broad swaths of spectrum
  • Different modulation schemes made different sound
    • Geiger-counter clicks
    • Hash
    • Carriers


bpl interference2
BPL Interference
  • BPL industry initially denied that there is interference
  • Examination of field trials shows there substantial interference
  • ARRL’s Ed Hare W1RFI examined four areas with special mobile setup.
w1rfi video
W1RFI Video
  • Test site #1 : Potomac, MD. July 27, 2003
    • overhead
  • Test Site #2: Manassas, VA. July 29, 2003
    • underground
    • Duke Power testing similar system
  • Test site #3 : Emmaus, PA, July 29, 2003
    • underground and overhead
  • Test site #4 : Briarcliff Manor, NY, July 27-28, 2003
    • Overhead
    • Progress Energy testing similar system
notes on video
Notes on Video
  • These signal levels will cause harmful interference to nearby HF stations
  • The listening that ARRL did in the trial areas was extensive. The video shows only representative examples of what was heard.
  • BPL signals heard from several blocks to as much as a half mile from the wires.
interference goes both ways
Interference goes both ways
  • Ham signals can interfere with BPL, slowing or stopping data transfer.
  • BPL signals are a few hundred milliwatts on the wire, but ham station can induce several watts.
  • Overload amplifiers.

AMRAD study…

amrad study
  • AMRAD conducted an RF Susceptibility experiment at the Potomac BPL test site on November 9, 2003.
  • A mobile amateur radio station equipped with an HF transmit capability was used…..
amrad results
AMRAD Results
  • When transmitting at the street curb
    • Data transfer ceased in all but one case at a transmitter power of 4 watts in the BPL operating band.
    • 12 and 35 watts caused data transfer to cease in two of the bands tested even though they were above the BPL operating band.


amrad results1
AMRAD Results
  • Effect dropped with distance, but some data loss occurred at ¼ mile and more.
where do we stand
Where do we stand?
  • Part 15 Rules
  • Notice of Inquiry/NPRM
  • FCC Commissioner statements
  • Comments on NOI/NPRM
    • NTIA
    • FEMA
    • Industry
    • Hams


part 15
Part 15
  • Permits some unlicensed transmissions
    • Intentional radiators
      • Wi-fi
      • Cordless phones
    • Unintentional radiators
      • Your computer, monitor
      • Receivers, transceivers, TV sets
      • BPL


part 151
Part 15
  • Specifies radiation limits
  • Prohibits interference to licensed services
  • Devices must accept interference from licensed services

See the phone…

notice of inquiry et docket no 03 104
Notice of Inquiry – ET Docket No. 03-104
  • Issued by FCC April 2003
  • “Through this inquiry, we seek information and technical data so that we may evaluate the current state of BPL technology and determine whether changes to Part 15 of the Commission’s rules are necessary to facilitate the deployment of this technology.”
notice of inquiry et docket no 03 1041
Notice of Inquiry – ET Docket No. 03-104
  • 18. Interference from BPL Emissions:Multiple carriers spread signals over a broad range of frequencies that are used by other services that must be protected from interference.

Comments closed last fall.

notice of proposed rulemaking et docket no 04 37
Notice of Proposed RulemakingET Docket No. 04-37


  • No increase in Part 15 emission limits
  • Affirms that “operations must cease if harmful interference to licensed services is caused.
  • Requires “adaptive interference mitigation techniques”
  • “Incorporate a shut-down feature”
  • Notification requirements and database

Sounds good, but…

don t celebrate yet
Don’t Celebrate Yet!
  • Time for some details….

Progress EnergyTrial System Details:

how much spectrum
How much spectrum?
  • 6 MHz per “leg” in two blocks
    • Uplink block – 2.5 MHz
    • Downlink block – 3.5 MHz
    • Between 7 and 50 MHz
  • “Leg” is about 2000 feet or less
  • Can’t re-use spectrum for several legs to avoid self-interference
how much interference
How much interference?
  • Home stations hear it:
    • Half mile + to simple station with diplole
    • 1.5 miles to powerhouse with beam
    • (from overhead lines)
more problems
More Problems….
  • Will it fit?
  • Domino Effect
  • We are mobile
  • “Customer Service”
nprm note turn your beam
NPRM Note: Turn your beam
  • 35. We recognize that amateur operations are likely to present a difficult challenge in the deployment of Access BPL in cases where amateurs use high gain outdoor antennas that are located near power lines… We therefore would expect that, in practice, many amateurs already orient their antennas to minimize the reception of emissions from nearby electric power lines.
what is harmful interference
What is “Harmful Interference”?
  • §97.3(a)(23) Harmful interference:Interference which… seriously degrades, obstructs or repeatedly interrupts a radio-communication service operating in accordance with the Radio Regulations.
fcc commissioner statements
FCC Commissioner statements
  • Initially very bullish on BPL, with no mention of interference in public
  • More recent statements recognize our complaints:
    • Abernathy “I recognize that amateur radio licensees have raised concerns about harmful interference, and that is something that will have to be addressed before any mass market deployment can occur.”
ntia comments on noi
NTIA Comments on NOI
  • NTIA: “believes that Broadband over Power Line (BPL) holds great promise…” but “the Commission must be certain to provide all communications stakeholders with adequate protections against BPL emissions that may cause unacceptable radio frequency interference.”
fema comments on noi
FEMA Comments on NOI
  • “FEMA believes and recommends that Part 15 of the FCC rules and regulations should be strengthened to ensure that there will be no increase in interference levels to existing communications systems which are licensed by the FCC or authorized by the NTIA.”

but then…

comments on noi
Comments on NOI
  • Others opposed:
    • APCO (Public Safety radio)
    • Shortwave Broadcasters (and listeners)
    • ARINC (aviation radio)
    • Radio Astronomers
comments on noi1
Comments on NOI

Industry Comments:

  • “(Interference) just doesn't exist.”

Jay Birnbaum, VP, Current Technologies LLC

  • “We're entirely satisfied that there won't be any interference.”

Brett Kilbourne, United PowerLine Council

comments on noi2
Comments on NOI

Industry Comments:

  • “No matter how loud opponents may shout, they cannot point to evidence in this country that BPL systems are causing, have caused, or will cause, harmful interference to other spectrum users or other third parties.”


comments on noi3
Comments on NOI
  • More than 5000 comments total, most from hams opposing BPL.
  • ARRL: “The rules must insure that BPL is not permitted to operate in or near any Amateur Radio allocation…”
media wars hearts and minds
Media Wars:Hearts and Minds

“Hams always have been a quirky bunch. They haunt a series of short-wave radio frequencies set aside for them by the federal government in the 1930s…”

The Penn Yan Firestorm?

What really happened?

progress energy
Progress Energy
  • Phase 1: Wakefield
    • No Amateur Radio involvement
    • Significant signals crossing 10 and 12 meter bands (and CB)
  • Phase 2: southern Wake County
    • Hams invited to observe
    • Seriously interested in our concerns
phase 2 observations
Phase 2 Observations
  • 1st observation: January 15, 2004
phase 2 observation team
Phase 2 Observation Team






system design
System Design
  • Overhead feeder”
  • Underground Distribution
  • Wi-Fi access
system design1
System Design
  • Two spectrum blocks per BPL leg
    • Downstream: 3.5 MHz wide
    • Upstream: 2.5 MHz wide
  • Anywhere from 2 to 50 MHz
    • (Amperion prefers 8 to 30 MHz)
  • Each leg runs up to 2000 feet
  • Different spectrum blocks on adjacent legs
interference observed1
Interference Observed
  • Overhead feeder used 25 and 29 MHz
    • mobile to 300’
    • Home station .7 mi
  • Underground used10, 11, 15 MHz andmore
    • mobile to 100’
    • No home stations
interference resolution
Interference Resolution?
  • Equipment is frequency agile
    • Move whole spectrum block
    • Drop out segments
  • Controlled remotely from Network Operation Center
  • If you can get them on the phone!


interference resolution1
Interference Resolution?
  • They have moved!
  • Completely off ham bands on overhead lines
  • But…
    • Can they do it in a full rollout?
    • What about SWL, other HF users?
what can we do about it
What can we do about it?
  • Join ARRL
  • Contribute to Spectrum Defense Fund
  • Write your utility
  • Write your congressman
  • Write NC Utility Commission
  • Send comments on NPRM


what can we do about it1
What can we do about it?
  • If it takes me more than 15 minutes, forget it…