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back to article Ofcom fails to sweep away power-line networking

Ofcom's latest update on power-line networking is "dismissive", "inaccurate" and "fails to respond to complaints" according to the Radio Society, who just won't let the matter lie. Ofcom recently updated its position on power-line networking, an update that focuses on how much the regulator is doing to address a tiny problem …

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Amateur radio under threat

On this issue many radio amateurs are either limited to under 10 watts or choose to work at low wattages or are trying to hear very faint signals from around the world. Having somebody's mains wiring acting as a giant aerial close by makes this tricky - bet if the amateur's transmissions interfered with their broadband the response would be different. I'll just warm up my morse key with some single sideband.

Also with the shortage of frequencies it seems that those allocated to amateurs over many years internationally may come under threat from new services where the regulator, Lord Mandy, operators and suppliers of wireless gizmos can't agree on what should use which part of the spectrum and the easy way would be to steal it from other less legal action prone users like amateurs.

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Simple solution

There's a massive swath of radio today for HAM, mostly for hobyists, and a then a loud arguemnt claiming HAM is an emergency radio service needed by emergency crews.

1) when you're using HAM for emergency commincation, odds are there are not going to be any nearby operating BoPL systems. There's been a disaster... Hard to have power after one.

2) For a fraction of the cost, and with no training, emergency centers cal switch to ComSat. They're now cheap to operate, cost about as much as a handheld GPS, and are far more useful at a disaster site than a radio needing a 50' arial and a generator to operate...

Cut back the HAM frequenct range to about 10-20% of what it is today. Give BoPL the other 90% (plus it's other ranges available). Isolate the two systems, and end the argument. The hobyists should still have enough frequencies to keep their radios operating without much issue for a while yet with only the remainder.

Considdering simply the training costs alone in labor, every munuicipality, emergency service system ,police, fire and more coule easily be wquipped with emergency comsats. At less than 1 dollar a minute to use, and for the few hundred bukcs per phone, this is practically a free replacement technology compared to HAM, is far more useful, far more portable, and usable by anyone. We need to abandon all emergency plans that involve HAm now and move to a technology that has long since been available to replace it, regardless of who's feelings get hurt.

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Flame

Some standard then :-(

I do love the comment:

"The regulator does admit that power-line kit can generate interference, but claims that can be attributed to "the manner in which it is installed or operated", and that it will be examining the issue further by working with the Radio Society."

By "installed" they mean "plugging the f**king thing into the mains" like it shows in the instructions.

Yes; they may have had only 150~ complaints and it might not be a major worry to the public BUT a standard is a standard and it should meet what it is sold under.

If those 150~ complaints were about them bursting into flames and melting kittens then I doubt you'd see them for sale again ever and those deployed would be considered a clear and present danger and ripped out in seconds - but a buzz buzz buzz on some radio somewhere does not really harm anyone does it ... plus radios aren't cute and fluffy and snuggle up on your lap.

Oh well the ones near me got removed so I could at least get on with my radio related work :-(

Flames because I mentioned it once!

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FAIL

Ofcom are not fit for purpose!

The QUANGO Ofcom are lying and ignoring the tsunami of evidence against PLT technology coming from sources around the world. This technology does not just affect a few radio amateurs, it also wipes out the entire CEPT and UK CB radio bands and makes it impossible to listen to weak short-wave stations.

I have reported 28 interference sources of PLT QRM in the Biggleswade, Bedforshire area which affect mine and my friends home-base systems and our ability to use our CBs when mobile. Ofcom's stance is a mobile unit can move away; not when the entire town is blanketed with noise you cannot! 4 Watts of transmitter power used to run for miles. With PLT, it runs for metres and we are looking at the need to run illegal power amplifiers to reach over the noise. This will in turn cause much wider interference to totally innocent people. Two wrongs cannot make a right, but if Ofcom will not enforce EMC laws, why should we care?!

Despite being issued with a case number, I am still waiting for any kind of resolution. One address has been taken "off-air" but another claimed by Ofcom to be solved is still radiating crap all over the radio spectrum. Want to see the extent of the problem in small market town? Download this for Google Earth: ftp://ftp.gaztronics.net/PLT-Interference-in-Biggleswade.kmz

I really do not see why people feel the need to use such a poor "technology". Cat 6 is cheaper to install, does not cost anything to run and does not spew crap all over the radio spectrum.

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ADSL as well as radio

The wideband rubbish from these devices will also mess up ADSL, some folks report that ADSL speeds double with them removed.

Using these devices is a bit like burning car tyres in your garden . . . .

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Hams being upset at interference??

Having grown up as the 'Jnr Op' (son) of a (now deceased) Radio Ham, and having neighbour after neighbour come knocking on our door for interfering with their telly/radio/microwave, I find it ironic that they are now complaining of interefence!

Whilst I do feel soom sympathy for them, I can't help but smile.

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Flawed comparison/irony

If a TV/Radio, far less a microwave, is receiving signals from a clean, single frequency transmitter, operated by someone technically qualified to do it, there's something wrong with the TV/Radio.

The same thing doesn't apply with PLT, because it transmits its radio signal on hundreds of frequencies at the same time, and equipment designed to receive any of those frequencies gets wiped out by it. Besides, amateur radio is legal, and well regulated. PLT is not.

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Why interference matters so much to radio amateurs...

The reason interference is such a thorny issue is that many amateurs are still continuing the original purpose of amateur radio, self-education, and contributing some high-quality scientific research in the process.

Some of us regularly work with such small signals that even NASA would struggle to make any sense out of them - or even realise they were there in some cases - right on the very cutting edge of communications development, and background noise becomes a serious issue.

That's one reason the military haven't complained, they're usually working with signals sufficiently strong to be robust because they need to get the message through 'first time, every time' under battlefield conditions.

Sometimes it's rather like trying to hear if your watch is still ticking in the middle of a disco...

73 M0GDU

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Well done, old chaps!

OFCOM's primary concern has always been the next tea break, trumped only by an opportunity to publish self-congratulation of an alleged achievement. No guesses who pays for that!

Years after telephone number "rationalisation", we still can't tell how much a call will cost by looking at the number and many of us have one option for broadband: ADSL on a BT line or nothing at all.

The mere thought of any real action gives these people a migraine. Messrs Lamb and Lennox-Brown would be proud.

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@Richard Bolton

The reason for complaints about breakthrough interference in the "olden days" was because the TV's were not designed to be immune to radio signals that the TV was not supposed to pick up. The introduction of CE marking ensured that manufacturers produced equipment that was designed to tolerate strong out-of-band fields.

To carry the CE mark, a product has to comply with the Essential Requirements which state:

4.—(1) A reference to “essential requirements” in relation to equipment is a reference to the

requirements set out in paragraph (2) and in the case of fixed installations shall include the

requirements set out in regulation 5.

(2) Equipment shall be designed and manufactured, having regard to the state of the art, so as to

ensure that—

(a) the electromagnetic disturbance it generates does not exceed a level above which radio

and telecommunications equipment or other equipment cannot operate as intended; and

(b) it has a level of immunity to the electromagnetic disturbance to be expected in its

intended use which allows it to operate without unacceptable degradation of its intended

use.

It's (b) that applies to tv's, ensuring that by design, your tellybox shouldn't pick up my transmissions, and giving us Amateurs less hassle due to crap TV design.

Note that (a) applies to PLT. It does cause demostrable interference (see http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/15/bt_vision_interference/ ), yet are being allowed onto the market in droves. Ofcom are simply not doing their job as regulator.

The turd that won't flush is that it makes a joke of electromagnetic compatibility law, allowing any old crap to market and affecting virtually any spectrum they like. It's Short Wave now, but what if it was interference to your TV, baby monitors, radio reception, car remote control etc?

The first PLT's that BT were peddling also used the CB band, causing BT users problems with their 27MHz wireless mice and keyboards. Now there are recent reports of interference with ADSL systems causing significant reduction in bandwidth to BT's own product. These things are belching out radio junk even when they are not transferring data. Their emissions are about 1000x over levels that they profess to comply with (EN55022).

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The end of EMC compliance?

The real problem here is that the PLT devices fail the accepted EMC limits by a massive margin, and hence the radius of interference is greater than compliant devices by a factor of more than 30.

If the internationally accepted EMC limits are changed to make this legal, then there will be nothing to prevent all devices creating as much interference. The result of that will be that all current systems will be exposed to a massive increase in interference and stop working and future systems will probably never take off because they will not have a quiet environment to work in.

The mains is an awful noisy environment, you have to inject signals at a very high level or your receiver cannot hear them, it is this that causes the interference. It's very clear that the mains is not a suitable transmission medium for these signals, ethernet doesn't radiate the same type of signals because it is properly screened.

Companies should think about demonstrating some intelligence in their choice of technologies to develop, and contribute to the greater good by not attempting to gerrymander the EMC legislation to allow them to make a fast buck!

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Useless OFCOM

Doesn't surprise me. I have made several complaints to OFCOM over the years on what I consider to be perfectly legitimate matters that they should be able to deal with and just drawn several blanks. Just got a load of waffle back. Totally toothless, in my opinion.

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Anonymous Coward

Richard Son of Ham Misses Point

@ Micheal C - It'd not a grudge match matey!

@ Mr Bedford - your father's way of operating was illegal much as the Comtrend PLT are today!

Well done El Reg - a balanced article!

The number of people affected by BT Vision Comtrend devices and other makes is far greater than Ofcom would like to think. I know for a fact that there are other amateurs in my area who won't complain because they don't think anything can be done. Others know the people using the offending devices and know that these people won't allow BT to change the devices to wired networks.

BT Vision is a cruddy blend of technologies which cannot compete with the other main options and will no doubt die a death in the next year or two.

What this sad business shows is that the law means nothing in the face of politics and commerce. BT is allow to supply equipment that radiates all over the HF hands and, where telephone cables are overhead, knocks broadband for six.

Charlie.

M0WYM

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Cat 6 cheaper? Hmm.

To install Cat 6, the average homeowner would have to rip their house apart to bury the cables. Hardly cheaper than PLT, not to mention the millions of tenants that don't have the option.

I have a degree of sympathy for hams being an ex-one myself, but PLT is hardly the same as burning rubbish. Frankly, one of the reasons I let my licence lapse was the high proportion of obnoxious self-important people in the hobby. Ham radio will always be an activity that lives on the margins of 'real' radio users, and something like this will always be round the corner.

Having said all that, if the devices really are in breach of regulations then the authorities must act, although I'm not sure what could be done for the large install base already present.

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Ofcom not fit for purpose!

PLT's are (poorly) notched so as to NOT allow interference on some of the amateur bands but is only partially effective - this however does not stop the interference in other parts of the HF spectrum, thus interfering with Short Wave Listeners winkling out those weak signals, and those who would wish to listen to foreign broadcast stations still operating legally in these bands.

The very fact that PLT's have notches is an admission by the manufacturers that they DO CAUSE illegal interference. Ofcom are therefore neglecting their duty to remove an interfering device.

If a technology was introduced that kept breaking through on Coronation Street or Jeremy Kyle the masses would soon be up in arms.

Why should the followers of the perfectly legal hobbies of amateur radio, shortwave listening and citizens band radio not be similarly outraged. They should therefore get suitably protected by the Government body, paid by the taxes of those very same hobbyists to regulate the interference to the radio spectrum?

It would appear that Ofcom are following an agenda OTHER than that of dealing with interference from whatever cause, which is there reason for being, therefore I say that they are 'Not Fit For Purpose' unless they are prepared to 'Do Their Duty' and remove PLT devices forthwith.

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Is it just possible

that OFCOM have been gotten to?

Is it just possible that, much as the constable whose son has a garage band hears nothing amiss, neither can officials with an interest in snake raising admit seeing one when it fangs them in the nose?

Is it?

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What a mess

As a retired radio transmission engineer I can inform you that HM government said

they were looking into the radio intereference aspect of possible PLT systems on an

urgent basis over 10 years ago.

To cut a long story short nothing was done,the task having been passed between

various government departments who were Ofcoms predecessors presumably

it got put on the back burner.

When Ofcom quote the number of complaints bear in mind that if the complainant

does not ask for a reference number no record is kept even when they resolve

a problem.

Radio listeners are also very reluctant to complain to the official regulator Ofcom.

I had 4 separate PLT installations dealt with by Ofcom but just one complaint number.

3 householders were CAT 5 wired one was given a Wi Fi solution.

A 5th installation was interfering but it went out of use before Ofcom got involved.

All this aggro for 4 neighbours and my costly equipment some of which uses

software defined radio,digital signal processing etc was rendered unusable.

Even after all this bother other PLTs are still audible the nearest being 350

yards away.

If I were to move say 400 yards the trouble would have to be tackled again.

Driving round this area reveals more of these damned things.

Note PLTs lock up on mains spikes such as can come from domestic appliances.

This may account for some PLTs in this area going out of use.

Some have discovered they stop some types of wireless keyboards and mice from

operating correctly.

They can in some circumstances reduce Internet speeds.

I own 2 types of these adaptors for test purposes and have installed them

in 3 neighbours houses one 80 yards away,they all caused bad interference here.

Do you think that the 5 PLTs plus the 3 test installations all gave trouble because

of the way they were installed as Ofcom assert ? They are speaking drivel !

Anyway I did find that they did not work on some of my 13 Amp sockets even in

this small house so they are no that good.

If Ofcom fail to address this problem they will signal to manufacturers that they

can ignore the EMC regulations with impunity and the result will be chaos affecting

the wider public not "just radio users"

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Cat6 V wifi

Not sure about ripping the house apart for a run of cable. You don't rip the house apart to get a tv aerial feeder from the antenna or dish to the TV set, do you? Besides, there's always wifi, which works great, coexists peacefully with other rightful users of the radio spectrum, and doesn't slow your ADSL down into the bargain. Those for whom neither wifi nor CAT are a pretty easy solution are, I'd suggest, a far, far smaller group than users of the radio spectrum between 2 and 30 mhz. Those who can't be arsed and don't give a stuff about other people are another matter entirely.

As for the large install base (estimated at 750,000 by Ofcom), well, the same thing will apply as it does when any other defective or dangerous product's been supplied. They get recalled, and the person who innocently bought the damn thing gets their money back.

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Welcome

@Michael C

As a ham radio operator, I can assure you that those on the helping end usually have power. We have a mess near where I live and the effects can be heard many miles from the city (in the US) where the system is located. In fact, the noise level is high enough that weaker signals cannot be heard. Those with directional antennas that can be rotated can confirm the direction of the interference.

Ham radio has been instrumental in high seas rescues when the ham receiving the distress call has been in the correct location to receive it. Due to the nature of radio, you cannot count on "official" maritime stations hearing the calls for help, it may hinge on an inland station hearing it. BPL (Broadband on Power Line) here in the US and elsewhere can interfere with weak signals like this. Many of the vessels are simply pleasure yachts with barely adequate antennas and medium power radios, so the receiving end MUST be interference free. They may even be limited on how much power they can run due to a mostly depleted battery as their engine(s) will not run.

Even if a hurricane or other natural (or man-made) disaster occurs, the equipment used in the disaster area may be limited by how much emergency power is available (a small camping generator vs. larger ones) and a quickly raised antenna until more effective equipment can be put into service. If power line noise as produced by BPL is prevalent throughout the country, then those weaker signals may not be heard by those who know what aid is required.

Other services besides ham radio operators are also affected by these systems.

On the other hand, there are implementations of BPL that are not harmful to licensed radio operations that should be explored. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) has actually installed such equipment right at their high frequency (AKA "shortwave") antennas with no interference.

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Money

Well, when you work for a low-salary outfit like O£COM you have to think where your higher salary is going to come from. It may well be that an examination of various "consultancies" would throw a few familiar names at you in a few years time !

In any case, the problem/s of interference are wider than PLT....the same "standards" that enable the comtrend unit to be produced are used to make (and sell) various other things, such as SMPSU's for computers that interfere as much as the PLT devices....because they are produced without the essential smoothing and suppression components installed...deliberately.

The reality is that O£COM have not the guts, or interest, to stand up to large companies. If BT complained about amateur interference than the "offending" amateur station would be shut down immediately.

Remember [amateur radio] guys what some said a few years ago, when O£COM issued the amateur licence for life, and free. You get what you pay for....and since O£COM get nothing from amateurs, they get nothing from O£COM. Don't say you/we were not warned. O£COM is in this for the money....just look at how much they "charged" the mobile phone companies...

And as for the "take the spectrum from the amateurs"....hey...the MOD has a hundred times more spectrum allocated to it....and uses very little of that....and according to their troops...the radios don't work anyway !!!!

The BT vision things work fine, until you get a few in the same area...they also tend to dislike interference....150 watts of sideband on 20 metres knocks them right over...for which there is no remedy....they [bt vision users] have to accept the problem.

Having said that, it is almost impossible to work long distance stations with a PLT adaptor nearby...the "S" meter hovers around the S5 mark for most of the time...Norfolk is great guys...less than S1 most of the time....

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@AC M0WYM

Sir, I object to your remark that my late father was operating illegally. He most certainly was not. I was merely commenting that the fact that hams are now complaining about interference made me smile. Our neighbours all had 'low pass' filters (in the way of a ferrite ring) attached to their TV aerial leads to fix their issues - all supplied and fitted by my father.

Whilst I never became a ham myself, I do remember that on several occasions we had representatives from the (then) DTI come round to inspect my father's gear and logs - each time they found nothing wrong and certainly nothing illegal!

My father studied hard for his exam and was one of the first 'G4' operators in the UK and I remember his excitement at being able to work Australia on less than 1W, and muttering things about the sun-spot cycle.

There was one particularly vindictive neighbour who, after 20 years, was still trying to get the council to remove my father’s 75' mast (several sections of ex-MoD mast) and the 4 element yagi strapped to the side of the house - all to no avail as he had written permission from the council in 1974 and statute laws prevented them from taking any action - still didn't stop the buggers from making his life a misery though! It was those neighbours that complained about my father blowing up their microwave - to the local press as well!

I kindly ask that you retract that remark and apologise.

Jnr Op of G4ABS (silent key)

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It just doesn't work!

PLC systems usually are of limited range. Here in the USA we have these X10 devices that allow houses to flip lights and outlets on & off. These work quite well, as the bit rate is probably a bit les than 100 bps (yes, one hundred bits per second). With these rates, they can time the transmissions at the zero crossing of the power line, and they work quite well with limited range (inside the house).

The PLC people (it is called BPL, broadband over power line) here think that they can use power cable (14 gauge wire 1/4 inch separation) like we all use Cat-5 wire that is tightly twisted for multi megabit transmissions. It just doesn't work. What happens is that the power line acts like a nice antenna (the adapters would probably work better if they just had an antenna connected instead of trying the power line as an antenna).

The other problem is that they think that they can get broadband signals to work. Guess again! the aggregate data rate of a bunch of users is WAY beyond the published capacity of the system. It just dies on the vine.

So, it is neither broadband, or over power line. The interference happens everywhere, and the more users that are there, the worser it gets. The limited tests here in the USA have all gone bust, and our FCC (you call it Ofcom) has all but pulled the plug (pun intended!)!

The sooner this dies, the better!

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Unhappy

Polution

There are many examples where peoples lives are made worse, often in quite small ways, because of poorly thought out technologies. City dwellers can no longer see the stars because lazy lamp shade designers and lack of regulation allows the light to shine upwards. A small number of astronomers get quite upset about this but who cares about them? Old and new technologies especially, should not make life worse for anyone, however small the number of people involved. I teach Electronics and this includes a module on Radio Communication. The pollution of the radio spectrum has become far worse in recent years. Of course this might all be academic because we are doing the same thing to the oceans and once they die, we'll all soon follow. There is a general principle here. Avoid polluting anything anywhere.

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Unhappy

OFCOM doesn't do consumer protection

OFCOM are only interested in maintaining a level playing field between businesses. If a (wealthy) manufacturer of amateur radio kit makes a complaint, something might get done, but members of the public can be ignored!

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How do you fancy this?

An awful lot of people go to watch football every week, so I wonder how they would like it if I turned up in a JCB and drove all over the pitch, preventing the game from taking place? Every week. And if they moved to a different ground, there'd be someone already there churning that one up. Every week. End of football. After all it's only a pastime, isn't it?

I bet they'd change their tune then.

And Amateur Radio has brought forth many advances in weak-signal techniques that are now used across the world in comms, space and molecular research, but this selfish technology will kill it stone dead.

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Linux

@Paul Widger

- Do you think that the 5 PLTs plus the 3 test installations all gave trouble because

of the way they were installed as Ofcom assert?

Could be, if you live on an estate where all the houses were built by the same developer. It's not really how the devices themselves are installed, its the quality of the mains wiring (and to an extent, where and how the cable has been laid).

WRT the complaint, I used HAM some time ago, and found many operators to have an enlarged sense of self-importance. That said, I have a few of these devices, and they do seem to kick out a bit. I don't use them because they have been quite unreliable, but had my HomeHub not been in the living room, I would have had no choice.

It's fine saying lay CAT5/6 but I'm a tenant. Thankfully, my Girlfriend isn't too bothered about the bright orange CAT6 running around the edge of the carpet, but there will be many people who will be unable to properly lay the cable for legal (or marital) reasons.

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Ofcom are a waste of space

I reported an operator seriously breaking the wireless telegraphy act, gave recorded evidence, full details of name and location etc.

Having heard nothing 3 months later, I chased them and was told the case had been closed. When I asked what had happened I was told that it had all been "resolved" by phone and they don't keep records of phone calls.

The same offender is still offending - no action was actually taken by Ofcom.

No incident number was issued.

So is it any wonder that they claim to have so little complaints?

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Horses for courses

Oh, dear, Michael C - "Cut back the HAM frequenct range to about 10-20% of what it is today"? That is an astonishingly arrogant attitude, which surely shows that you do not understand the issues - issues which arise whenever *anything* is permitted to radiate EM energy in the range (approximately) 1.6 to 30 MHz. And what difference does it make how many of us are actually active? - there are only a minority of us interested in *most* things, except maybe football, yet we seem mainly to accommodate our differences amicably enough.

In the real world - the one out there which AFAIK exists quite independently of all our arguments and sophistries - the shortwave frequencies exhibit the unique ability to allow very small signals, intereacting with the earth and its ionosphere, to travel over, and be received at, incredible distances, up to and including right round the world. No other frequency range offers anything like this natural property. By the time they get into my receiver, we might easily be talking about attowatts - millionths of millionths of microwatts. Femtowatts are easy. Picowatts are downright luxury. How much, precisely, does your PLT thing radiate?

Lower frequencies (think LW or MW transmitters) need a good deal of power and aerial systems which, though physically big, are electrically rather small and inefficient. Although there is some skywave present after dark, the range is essentially limited to groundwave distances, which means local, by day, and maybe into Europe at night. Higher frequencies - anywhere from around the VHF broadcast band up - travel generally only over line-of-sight paths, apart from rarer occurrences like meteor scatter. The line-of-sight characteristic again means, essentially, local - although many of us take advantage of the fact that satellites pass in line-of-sight range.

Inbetween, in the shortwave area under discussion, we amateurs are allocated small bands of frequencies right across the shortwave precisely because, in this region of the spectrum, the conditions vary - with time and season, as well as with frequency - enormously, and offer scope for many activities and investigations. Yes, many of us are available for emergency work too, and why not? When all your fancy digital stuff goes down, we can still guarantee a comms link, which might be vital; most of that, though, goes on at VHF, so isn't really relevant to a dispute over shortwave.

Why should the unique features of shortwave simply be sacrificed to the convenience of people who can't be arsed to run a simple cable from A to B, or to install, instead of PLT, a 2.4 GHz WiFi - which doesn't crap right across the spectrum - to connect their digital boxes? Everyone who plugs in a PLT system WILL contribute sufficient pollution to that super-sensitive frequency range to destroy its usefulness to the people who are trying - quite legally - to use shortwave in the exploitation and investigation of its unique characteristics. They do not "impair" its use, they do not "add a bit of background noise" - they *destroy* it, since by definition we are looking for the very smallest signals. The situation is very like that resulting from modern light pollution of the night sky, which results in your being able to discern maybe half a dozen very bright stars instead of the thousands and thousands of tiny ones which are there ... so I'm told. Civilisation detaches us from the real world in many ways. Why add more?

No. No matter what commercial considerations may be tried as levers to force this polluting abuse of the electromagnetic spectrum onto the market, it should be banned outright, along with atrocities like "WiTricity". No equipment whatever, if not intended for a bona-fide radio use - which are long-established - should be allowed to emit *any* significant energy between at least 1.6 and 30 MHz. Indeed, it might be preferable to extend the upper limit to 50 or 100 MHz, to allow for proper investigation of the extreme - and extremely interesting - phenomena which can occur in the low VHF, especially near sunspot maxima. The unique physical properties of our world should not just be polluted out of existence to suit the market, no matter how clever we get at thinking up ways of doing it.

Mind you, in a world run by quangos and governments who are firmly in the corporate pocket, don't expect rationality to count for much until after the revolution.

"Fail" icon especially for Ofcom. They're so good at it.

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PLC should be banned !

I read all the comments posted here by people who do not understand the reality about this issue.

The problem arises when products that does NOT meet well established EMC-limits (EN55022) suddenly are release on the market. My conclusion is that the regulation is not enforced by the authorities, OFCOM are not doing the job they should do ! Their job is to make sure that products who fails the EN55022 limit does not enter the market. The guy who writes about ComSat are forgetting something, what happens when the satellite system fails ? Then you will have to get hold of a ham radio transceiver and an antenna, and then you will make that emergency contact because you don't need a satellite for that. Satellites costs a lot of money, and have a limited life span. But other than the emergency aspect of ham radio the real issue is that no one should be allowed to place products on the market that destroys other services ! Good engineering would never allow this to happen, but in the case with PLC it has happened ! That is evidence that people that does not have the necessary technical skills and know what they are doing is involved in the process of decision making regarding PLC.

The statement about reducing the amateur radio frequencies to 10-20% of the current to allow PLC is outrageous ! That is just like saying "lets reduce the TV frequency area to allow only 2 TV-channels, because I want to use the rest for my broadband connection". PLC and HomePlug in its current state should be banned because it intrudes on an already occupied frequency area, occupied by well established and licensed services like amateur radio, emergency and short wave broadcasting. The ONLY solution is to ban PLC until products that follows good engineering practice is launched that does not interfere with other services !

Roar Dehli

Norway

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Why all this mention of Amateur Radio

I am not sure why there is all this mention of Amateur radio? I complained to Ofcom about PLA interference jamming AM broadcast station reception and possibly affecting my ADSL connect speed - nothing at all to do with Amateur Radio. In response to my complaints Ofcom arranged to have 4 PLA devices removed or ceased within .5 mile radius of my home and

a) I can again listen to my regular shortwave AM programs.

b) My ADSL sync speed improved - although this was never officially linked to the removal of the PLAs- it might have just been a freaky coincidence..........

I am happy now, but I don't know what happened to the removed PLAs, ie whether people got their money back etc

Regards

Simon

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Who cares?

Millions of people are using PLT to network their houses without the need to install CAT-5 or interfer with my wireless connection. Who cares if a load of pensioners who get there kicks from listening to some guy talk to his neighbour in Palmyra Atoll (probably bouncing a signal off the moon) suffer from the odd buzzing noise whilst they do the things that Ham hobbists do?

Remind me again what the point of Ham radio (without resorting to a post-apocalyptic vision of ham-radio saving us all from disaster)? Something was invented a few years ago that does a better job, its called the telephone.

Pulls pin and ducks for cover.

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It's an Ill Omen For the Future

You have probably noticed that we are becoming more and more dependent on radio devices - Bluetooth, WiFi WLAN, wireless keyboard/mice, wireless USB, TV, normal radio, RC, weather monitors, remote controls (non-IR), car keys, etc. This trend will continue as people want more freedom from wires and manufacturers strive to achieve this. All these wireless devices depend on the other devices behaving themselves as they all swim in the same sea of spectrum. The future depends on everyone conforming to the rules and being good neighbours. PLTs are the vandals/hoodies/terrorists of the radio world. Beware!

(OFCOM==chocolate teapot).

Nick

on4Nic

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Unhappy

@Duckfest

I have been using CB radio since the late 80s as a one to one and one to many communications system. I am 37. Am I a pensioner?

We used to play a game called 'Foxhunting' where a car would hide and the 'hunters' would track them down on their CB signal. It made for some entertaining evenings with many local home-base users listening in to the madness. You cannot do that on a telephone!

The point of Amateur Radio is to spread knowledge and training in electronics and the Electro-Magnetic spectrum. It is about transmitting with the least amount of power to see how far you can get. It is about listening to the natural EM sounds of the planet and the universe and working with them.

If you have no interest in this, then please quietly sit in the corner. We may have no interest in your stamp collecting, but we are willing to leave you be.

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Silver badge

The weird thing is that it *can* be made to comply.

All you need is to not use a ring main or spurred wiring, and to fit a dirty great big filter at the incomer.

A single run of standard twin & earth is actually reasonably good at containing the emissions.

However, the moment there's a ring main, it becomes a very good antenna at certain frequencies. Spurs are almost as bad because of the different path lengths.

You'll also find that most PLTs pass through many domestic electricity meters, particularly newer ones, and fitting sufficiently large 100A filters will cost a fortune.

So next door can use your bandwidth if they want. So can pretty much everybody on your power supply phase, as it doesn't get properly blocked until the substation.

In my street, that would be 1/3 of the people within half a mile - maybe 50 houses.

In the UK domestic situation, these devices are quite simply wrong.

Has OFCOM tested these devices on ring mains? They obviously have not, because the radiated emissions are HUGE.

The conducted emissions are also massive, but there isn't actually a standard for that at the moment.

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Bronze badge

@Duckfest

The point really isn't anything to do with Ham Radio - these shitty little things are a menace to all radio communications, whether WiFi, 3G, or TV

The simple fact is that these devices don't meet the required standards, (even many of the ones that have 'passed' laboratory testing,) and should not be on the market.

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FAIL

@Richard 12

***All you need is to not use a ring main or spurred wiring, and to fit a dirty great big filter at the incomer."***

Not on a ring or spur?

Note to self. Never let anyone called "Richard" do electrical work in the Cowherd house.

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Unhappy

Quite alarmed

I admit that I use HomePlug standard devices in my house, because the wiring is already present, and being an older house with thick walls, built over three stories, even with Wireless range extenders (repeaters), I have significant WiFi dead spots. Likewise, running Cat 5/5e/6 around the house to all of the kids bedrooms would be an expensive option, even if I were to use PDS-like infrastructure, not that I would want to have powered switches on every floor of the house for economy reasons.

I am worried about what this article is saying, because I try to be a good neighbour, but had not considered that I would be polluting the EM spectrum to the degree implied. I trusted that the manufacturers would abide by the standards, that the standards were reasonable, and that OFCOM would police them.

If two of these three trusts cannot be relied on, then I am worried that I might be impacting my neighbours, at least one of whom have a large pole antenna, presumably for HAM or Shortwave radio. Should I be going around all of my neighbours asking whether I should stop using Powerline Ethernet, or should I sit back and wait to see whether I get a knock on the door about these devices.

I would hate to have to dump the devices, because they are just too useful.

P.S. All of my devices are Netgear 14 or 85Mbs devices, not BT supplied devices.

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@Eponymous Cowherd

You miss the point quite spectacularly.

What I'm saying is that the technology is fundamentally unsuitable for use in normal British domestic dwellings, because the *only* topology that works is the one that is only used for electric cookers and electric showers, namely a single unspliced run from the consumer unit to the device with a local isolator.

Oddly enough, most people don't want internet in their cooker or shower.

Everything else in your home is either a ringmain, a ring with a spur or two spurs. (Tthe former is preferred, but the latter does happen).

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@Peter Gathercole

I appreciate your statement about wanting to be a good neighbour, but I think that 'good neighbour' and 'plt devices' are impossible bedfellows.

Take a look at the site www.ukqrm.co.uk and listen to some of the audio files posted on there. They will give you some idea of the crap that plt generates on the shortwave radio spectrum, if you have a radio in your house that is capable of receiving broadcasts on the SW band, just have a listen for yourself to the noise pollution emanating from your devices.

Yes, plt's are very convenient to use but are a rubbish technology which should never have been allowed onto the UK market because they use a part of the radio spectrum which is simply NOT AVAILABLE for use.

People should forget all about WHO is being affected and whether that is ok, because it is quite clear that Ofcom SHOULD be removing ALL sources of radio pollution, as is their remit.

There are perfectly ok alternatives to the PLT's that are causing interference, and that is ANY device which does not use the SW spectrum between 2-30mHZ, which I understand ARE available but are undoubtably more expensive, hence the proliferation of these CHEAPER devices being supplied by BT as part of their BT Vision package and available CHEAPLY in stores like Maplins.

These plt's are NOT enabling devices, they are just cheap alternatives using a set of frequencies which are already in use, and Ofcom should require their removal unconditionally.

Alan - G0BXU

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Anonymous Coward

@ Ben Tasker

"I used HAM some time ago, and found many operators to have an enlarged sense of self-importance."

What, you mean like bloggers?

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Gold badge
FAIL

There's 2 different technologies here...

There are 2 different technologies here:

1) The kind that tries to run broadband internet over the powerlines running *to* the house. This is pure evil, there is no way to make the power lines not radiate tons and tons of noise throughout the area.

2) The system that runs just within a house. This is also noisy, but I think with a proper design (power control especially) it could be made to stay within emission limits. If the current technology does not, it should be withdrawn, pure and simple. No other tech would be permitted to spew noise throughout the bands, this should not either. That said, it IS rather pointless... wifi (N) gets comparable speeds... Wifi slows down when your neighbors are all using it? Well, guess what, the same thing would happen with BPL -- your neighbors BPL would cause noise on your line, slowing BPL down.

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'It's only a hobby!'

In reply to Duckfest and his 'who cares?' post.

What is the point of Amateur Radio? Well, it's a technical hobby that one can learn from. We have to take exams to do it. What's the point of fishing, football, horse racing or snooker? If you were fishing one day and I came along and poured poison into the lake, you would be annoyed, and move to another lake. But then if I followed you around and poisoned ALL the lakes you'd be after my neck, because I'd put an end to your hobby.

I've learned a huge amount since I got my licence in 1984 (when I was 31, not a pensioner), are we to deny the same valuable experience to young people now, simply so manufacturers can make a buck, and lazy people don't have to run a cable? The whole thing is a disaster. If I have to give up my radio activities I honestly don't know what I'd do.

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WTF?

"Odd buzzing noise"? That's a laugh....

'Odd buzzing noise', if only it were. In my case, it completely jammed every frequency and rendered a 2000 dollar radio completely useless. PLT is a constant 24/7 screeching noise, and it's there even when there's no data being caried. Those things are crap, and it's only a matter of time before some nerd discovers how to intercept and view the traffic from them. It covers a very wide area and is just begging to be haxored, in my case the crud from them was stronger than any broadcast stations, although it was a street away. Maybe the sooner that happens, the better.

By the way, I've had my short wave gear since I was 13, and I'm a long way off being a pensioner. The hobby gets an uptake of young people all the time, and some of the digital modes being developed are astonishing. So lose the notion that it's all oaps.

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The issue here it that the PLT kit is illegal

I got a couple of these power line jobbies with my BT vision back before the Phorm was admitted by BT, only reason that BT were pushing them that I could think of was because the Home Hub only had two network sockets. Given that your TV is unlikely to be where the telephone some into the house it would have been handy, that is if I didn't already have an existing cat5 and a ton of gadgets already powered near the TV.

Issue here is that BT broke the law and again just like PHORM, OFCOM did nothing.

HAM radio is just as valid a hobby as computers and the IT community should be supporting this infringement of bandwidth rather than saying if it ain't a PC we don't like it.

BT and OFCOM are the baddies

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Badguys in Biggleswade?

I may be one of those offenders - not sure if the pin in my road is in the right location or represents another PLT user! WiFi sucked for streaming HD video content from my NAS upstairs to my TV downstairs. Running cable around the house wasn't an option as I had plans to re-arrange the rooms upstairs anyway which would have meant re-doing the whole thing in 12 months. So I stuck in PLT as a temporary work around and it's great.

As it happens the house is on the market and I am moving to a rented property up the road soon. I haven't worked out where everything is going to go yet, but as I will be planning to have the broadband point and NAS in the lounge, it may be that the PTL will be redundant... however thanks to your handy kmz I can see that no-one else in the immediate area in the new location is using it ;)

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Go

PLT is the future

PL adapters are great. Cat 5e/6 through your house is not a sensible option and wi-fi is average at best. Sorry radio freaks and geeks your time is up. You can take down your 50ft eyesores and buy a bloody mobile phone.

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