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back to article Power line tech could crash aircraft and shut down the Archers

An extensive study commissioned by Ofcom concludes that power line networking could crash aeroplanes and block Radio 4, but that technology will probably solve the problem before that happens. Power-line networking has been increasing in popularity, partly because BT bundles it with Vision, but pushing networking signals over …

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Happy

Im loving

The ancient ghetto blaster and the fact he used (probably) P2P copy of Transformers in the test

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FAIL

Just what I was thinking..

'transformers2.ts' TS as in telesync?

Whinging about your ham radio not working? Fail.

Testing your theories with pirated movies? Epic fail.

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Not as in telesync

You're showing your own pirated movie history here. ts in this context is almost certainly mpeg2-ts - MPEG-2 Transport Stream - which doesn't necessarily contain MPEG-2 data, it's also happy with MPEG-4 AVC.

Typical procedure for ripping* a blu-ray under Linux normally ends with MPEG-4 AVC in a MPEG-2 Transport Stream, and since Transformers 2 is out on blu-ray, how about being a little charitable and assume it is his rip.

* Or, for that matter, just playing it. I'm so glad that the MPAA made it impossible to actually use a blu-ray disk legitimately, whilst making it not exactly hard to use it illegally. Top marks, cocktards.

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Coat

"help the local airport get planes on the ground"

Gravity will do the job.

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Genie out of the bottle?

So Ofcom, that toothless and incompetent wonder, has failed to do anything practical about interference from 14 Mbps, 85 Mbps and 200 Mbps Powerline / Homeplug technology over the last several years.

What's the best way of dealing with the forthcoming Gigabit Homeplug technology? Of course! Get some consultants to write a lengthy report about it! Problem solved...

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Useless to**sers

We had a whole range of Electromagnetic Compatibility laws introduced in the 1990s to stop equipment from causing unacceptable degrees of interference to legitimate radio users. And when this kit comes along and pisses all over the radio bands what do Ofcom do?

Sweet f*ck all.

Why is that you wonder? Well because there is money involved, and Ofcom appear to have been bitten by the Thatcher view that making money off radio use trumps almost everything.

Why have they not prosecuted BT for their crap kit? I guess the same applies to Phorm fiasco where the big & wealthy businesses somehow get different rules applied...

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Boffin

CE Directives

In the UK, the chosen outfit to sort out CE violations is Trading Standards. Unfortunately, they seem to be a fragmented bunch of local council employees, and this could do with a national effort. (I don't know if / how well they could all club together)

I agree that no new legislation is needed. The CE regs don't even say there are certain pass limits, they just say that you shall not interfere. There are published guidelines to test to, but no guarantee that meeting the guidelines meets the directive.

I think that maybe Ofcom wants new legislation to make this non-compliance OK.

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PLAs on BT Vision - BT not to blame for issues with the kit.

[Quote]

Why have they not prosecuted BT for their crap kit? I guess the same applies to Phorm fiasco where the big & wealthy businesses somehow get different rules applied...

[/quote]

Just for the record BT do not make the Powerline adaptors they supply, they are made a company call Comtrend; BT just supply them. So if any prosecution were to be made with regards to the behaviour of the equipment it would be Comtrend who's adaptor's BT supply in good faith.

To use a recent "equipment based issue" as an example.....The accelerator problems with a particular model of Toyota recently; any claims that arose due to the fault were aimed at Toyota NOT the dealership who sold the vehicle. Again, for the simply fact the dealership supplied the equipment (a car in this case) in good faith.

BT has done a LOT of bad things in it's time and quite a few issues can be laid squarely at their feet. However, in this case it is not BT's fault they are just the supplier. Speaking as someone who has, in the past, had to support the Comtrend PLAs in the past while working for BT; I can honestly say they are a pain in the ass anyway and much cursed by BT Staff who have/had to support them.

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@shadowthrone

How are BT blameless? If they know that, as someone above puts it, the equipment pisses all over the airwaves, they are guilty - more so than the manufacturers, since they are supplying the kit and encouraging its use.

Having said that, OFCOM have a lot to answer for - what are they there for if they can't deal with a problem like this?

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FAIL

title here

"Well because there is money involved, and Ofcom appear to have been bitten by the Thatcher view that making money off radio use trumps almost everything."

Yeah, bloody thatcher, she's to blame for everything! I stubbed my toe this morning, I swear she moved the door jamb just as I was going through.

Twat.

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Grenade

Yes of course.

Your car analogy is entirely about face. In the vast majority of cases, the onus of rectifying a fault with supplied goods rests with the vendor. In the case of cars, that's the dealer. The Toyota issue is a special case as a mandated manufacturer safety recall.

This principle (bar the recall) applies elsewhere. If you have a problem with anything you've been sold, it's down to the vendor to sort it out. They may well then go on to reclaim from the supplier of the product, but whether or not that happens and the outcome of same does not affect their liability to you.

This Powerline business is interesting though. IANAL, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if *you* are using something causing interference on reserved bands, then *you* are liable!

Either way, if you were to take your Powerline plugs back to BT on the grounds that they were faulty (causing interference) BT are obliged to either refund you or replace them with working alternatives (and which one of these approaches is taken is *your* call not theirs). If they turn around and say "fuck off, it's Comtrend's fault", then get thee to Trading Standards sharpish. Whether Comtrend would end up being prosecuted would depend very much on whether the kit actually complies with the standards stamped on it.

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Boffin

Ahh... science

"technology will probably solve the problem"

I find it odd that this phrase seems to be coming up. Such as the goal incident yesterday "we need technology". Rather vague isn't it?

Go science!

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Stop

Bandwidth vs Wavelength

"PNL equipment, unlike Wi-Fi, doesn't restrict itself to a single frequency but splatters its message across the whole wavelength."

A certain frequency f is equivalent to a certain wavelength L:

L=c/f (with c= 300.000km/s)

So you could say they use many significantly different wavelengths corresponding to the large *band* of frequencies they use. Maybe you have an EE prof proofreading this kind of texts.

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Anonymous Coward

so...

s/whole wavelength/whole bandwidth/

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Anonymous Coward

Exactly

[Exactly again to make the system happy.]

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Jobs Halo

So...

Modern planes will still be affected will they....rubbish...They just arn't flying them right.

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I can imagine it though...

"Roger, tower, I will head on a bearing of CZZZZZRT at CZZZZRT feet. Confirm, over."

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Anonymous Coward

So you make powerline quick quick yes?

Part of the cause might be that the manufacturers think "Hey, it's just wires, right? No need to test for radio wave interference, right? More spectrum for us!" and then proceed to dump as much high-frequency power into the wires as possible. And perhaps ofcom too, as it refused to acknowledge the problem at first, driving the HAM guys to lots of costs.

The usual rule is that those consumer things are expected to take any interference they pick up but aren't allowed to generate any interference for others. They evidently fail badly at the latter. Frankly, I think it beggars belief that the things are still allowed on the market.

I'm not a HAM, Shirley.

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Anonymous Coward

Wireless mice

I tried the 200Mbs AV range and all the wireless mice and trackballs in the house stopped working! Needless to say I took the stuff back and laid a cable instead.

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Headmaster

@Anon Coward - Wireless Mice...

Not sure how having a big poo will help... http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=laying+a+cable

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BT Vision say "we want", BT VDSL2 people say "we do not want"

Poor old BT. Their BT Vision folks want this powerline stuff because it "simplifies home networking" and BT Vision is management's Great White Hope to recover the money they've poured down the drain in disaster areas like BT Global Services and BT's much delayed much overhyped 21CN, whose cost savings on the voice side now look like they'll stay as slideware because 21CN voice deployment is "suspended".

BT's high speed DSL folks don't want anyone to have powerline because once it gets critical mass it wipes out the possibility of high speed DSL pretty much forever, which would leave BT either deploying FTTP (and they don't want that) or leaving the high speed market to cable (and they don't want that). Ouch.

When I tried it for a few weeks, powerline networking around my house worked about as well as you'd expect if you attempted to transmit Ethernet frames on an interference-prone network without error correction. Lots of stalls while TCP recovers, occasional application-visible errors for stuff using UDP. Allegedly the silicon has improved since then, and now includes retries and error recovery without leaving that kind of thing to higher layers.

How any of this powerline kit gets CE approval in any country where CE approval is required is an interesting question.

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CE approval

How does it get CE approval?

Well you self-certificate it and put a CE stamp on the box - hey presto, no-one queries it.

Alan

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Far east manufacturers

Stamp CE on it to ensure it gets Chucked [off the boat in] Europe. True.

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FAIL

UK Enforcement Authority

would appear to be trading standards, not Ofcom who go after operators. This applies to all sorts of domestic and industrial goods, but if it doesn't kill people, or affect a lot of people, they seem to have better things to do. Unscrupulous manufacturers and importers take note :- UK is an easy target for crap kit. Oh, you already knew that? Well carry on then.

(Disclosure - I have a UK amateur license).

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much more than amateurs "down there"

"Existing PLN equipment operates between 2MHz and 30MHz - right at the bottom of the dial. The only things down there are the amateurs, who've been complaining for a while now, and a few vertical users who don't operate near the homes where PNL is being deployed"

And long-distance over-ocean aircraft, international broadcasters, many federal agencies, the military, shore-to-ship comms, etc.-- PLN affects it all. Having much higher frequencies involved is a mixed bag; using them and dropping the under 30MHz spectrum would keep intact the world-wide nature of the shortwave; but higher frequencies would radiate better out of the power line wires. A better approach is to drop the whole thing and stick to technologies that don't radiate outside of prescribed frequencies.

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Thanks

Another good overview

I've added it to the previous coverage here

http://www.techtir.ie/node/1001843

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Boffin

mains cabling needs to be designed for comms

Once the cost of chip + transformer + TCP/IP stack falls to a few pence, just about anything that connects to the mains as with every lightswitch or bulb will be manufactured with a net connection, communicating over the mains power it needs. This enables all kinds of smart energy efficient electrical room environment and device control. Probably won't happen if it needs seperate comms cabling, though it might just using WiFi. But if the mains power is also the comms channel such devices should just work and communicate amongst themselves once they are given a mains connection given suitable standards and software.

Once your mains cabling is designed to communicate information as well as power higher comms speeds become possible with less interference. Interference will still be a problem with older buildings until rewired though, though eventually everything will be upgraded as with flaky rubber covered mains cables and 3 pin round hole plugs.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, no, maybe, rather not actually, pull the other one

Yes, it would be swell, and I'd probably favour it over wifi. Except that no, it makes using the device when you *don't* want it networked rather difficult. Not up to the manufacturer to decide what to actually put on the network (as opposed to making possible to network). I really don't want my fridge to broadcast to the world just what's going moldy in there, or whatever noble cause they'll tout next, whether by wifi or by power wiring turned aerial. But this sort of utopian's wet dream is really besides the point here. The problem is that the current powerline kit cause interference up the yin yang and for that they should simply be taken off the market.

Proposing to make sure every house's wiring to be isolated so it no longer act as aerial is so spectacularly impractical that you might as well standardise a new socket with power and some network (say, ethernet) and mandate all new installations be delivered wired up for power AND network on each and every socket. No bets on the chances of either happening.

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Yes, it would be swell and I'd probably favour it ...

Current power line equipment is what it is: inherently interference noisy and giving flexibility and convenience to home networking that otherwise doesn't yet exist. No harm though in considering in advance of this development what wiring standards should look like if the power wiring were designed for communications rather than retro fitted with comms capabilities. Certainly upgrading existing installations to new wiring standards will take a few decades after the new standards stabilise - I was pulling obsolete rubber covered mains cabling out of my first house 25 years after it had been replaced by the current PVC insulated standard.

As to device security, the migration to IPV6 may give enough addresses to avoid NAT, but it sure isn't going to make firewalling obsolete. Should a lightswitch or fridge once installed advertise itself on the LAN ? Probably, but only enough so that someone who knows the unique password labelled on the back of the device can connect to it using a web browser to choose what it should do. If and when the economics suggested (transformer, chip and TCP/IP stack all cost a few pence) becomes a reality these concepts are no longer utopian, so it's better to start considering the security and cabling or wireless distribution issues beforehand. Would it cost very much more to string a pair of optic fibres into standard mains cable making this upwards compatible with existing installations ?

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Use it for what it's for.

The power grid is designed to be a power grid. This is quite at odds with being a computer network. The frequency response of every part of it is focused on the efficient transmission of low audio-frequency waveforms; you just don't get to do that *and* effectively transmit signals in the tens of megahertz range with the same hardware. It ain't the right tool for the job of data transmission, and making it the right tool for the job would probably just make it more expensive and less suitable for its intended purpose.

Water goes through water lines. Gas goes through gas lines. Power goes through power lines. Communications go through communications networks. We do it that way because it works better that way.

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Anonymous Coward

O£COM

What can I say ?

O£COM still considers that PLT does not use radio waves to operate !

Maybe they are correct.

The RSGB has been trying for years to get some action on this, maybe the report will influence things.

I remain unconvinced that a regulatory organisation that is more interested in making money from spectrum sales is going to be of any use.

The RSGB explanation of the problem is available to read below.

http://www.rsgb.org/plt/

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Grenade

EMC regs

In Europe, CE is a self certification but you had better be prepared to show your evidence. For equipment in the home, the relevant standard is EN55022B. All that should have to happen is that someone complains to the appropriate authority and force the manufacturer to provide the evidence.

As we have cartloads of equipment in every household, it seems, that meet this standard and NOT interfering with world + dog, then if this equipment met the standard, it would also not cause interference.

This standard is the harmonised standard compatible with FCC part 15B and as someone who has had to get through both (and some other aerospace standards) it's a bitch.

Does the powerline equipment manufacturer have guidelines on usage? (the usual weasel way out). The length of powerline, it's physical shape, the material (the velocity of communication is NOT the speed of light in copper or aluminium sheathed cable) all cause the effective radiation to differ.

On the bandwidth comment, the rule is simple: The more data you wish to pump, the wider the bandwidth required for a given bit error rate ( or S/S+N if you prefer).

Spalttering the spectrum such that it causes (in the words of the standard) 'harmful interference' invalidates the CE mark in Europe and should be dealt with as such - of course, we don't want to annoy all those people selling the stuff and generating all that lovely VAT, do we.

Grenade for the crap kit.

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Stop

Channel Capacity

Read up on the Great Shannon. Bandwidth and SNR affect maximum possible bitrate. If you have extremely good SNR, you need less Bandwidth:

Bitrate= BW*log2(1+SNR)

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FAIL

You're having a laugh surely?

"In Europe, CE is a self certification but you had better be prepared to show your evidence."

Dream on. Most consumer electronics these days are available for less than 2 years before a new model comes out. By the time the local country regulator (if they give a shit, most don't) is made aware of an issue, checks it and then jumps through all the legal hoops the product is EOL.

The CE mark is bollox, it always has been and it always will be. Thats the nature of EU rules - and specifically the enforcement of said "rules". CE rules rely on countries adhering to the rules which isn't something you will find happening in most EU nations.

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Unhappy

Tears

end in.

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Coat

Won't help Ofcom's DAB obsession

"Perhaps the regulator is hoping that FM interference will shift more users onto DAB "

Maybe, but you see the only reason that they want to do that, is to sell all the bandwidth. Who in their right minds is going to pay for that bandwidth if it is full of s**t from unlicensed PLN kit?

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Anonymous Coward

Interesting info

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rd/pubs/whp/whp-pdf-files/WHP114.pdf

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FAIL

I'm 52, you know...

and I remember the fiasco with CB in the 1980s. It broadcast right on top of the allocated model aircraft slot at 27Mhz. Obviously causing much damage and danger.

The Home Office Radio Regulatory Department (as was) held up their hands in horror and said "We didn't know it would do that.".

Thirty years on, their children have obviously reached the same position in OFCOM....

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Linears anyone?

The 1980s CB problems could come back as those of us who are being wiped out by PLT and ignored by Ofcom feel we have no choice but to boost our transmission power. We know it's illegal and it will just add to the general noise and crud which is affected HF radio use, but when the government authorities charged with keeping the spectrum clean refuse do to anything, what choices do you have?

It would appear that one could import any old radio, use it on any old frequency allocation, and get away with it because it's CE marked. That seems to be the case with PLT!

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Wot, only bearded hams complain?

Those of us who are non-bearded lady hams have issues with this sort of noisy tech as well.

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Once your mains cabling is designed to communicate ...

Of course as well as an unbalanced, unscreened and multiple path cable system can be. Which isn't very good at all. Why do you think power distribution uses 50Hz rather than 400Hz which would make transformers rather smaller? Something to do with interference to telephone and telegraph lines so it's not a new issue.

Without my Radio 4 fix I'd be lost (or rather uninformed) and I'm 'eckers like buying a DAB radio when I've a perfectly good radio or two around the place.

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400Hz

Interference is a minor reason for using 50/60Hz rather than 400Hz for large power distribution. 400Hz is limted to applications where size or weight limitations make the additional loses tolerable, eg aircraft.

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FAIL

OfCom

Useless, overpaid twats. The IEE (now IET) have been raising this as an issue for the best part of a decade... their solution is to pay PA Consulting £100,000s to produce a report...

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So now...

...we've all got to switch off electrical items when the plane is taking off - whether we're on it or not.

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Anonymous Coward

*squee*

Kitties on the wall :D

... er...yeah, PLN interferes with stuff. Nicely shown.

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WTF?

Umm

Wouldn't it be easier to just point out that PLN kit, by definition, broadcasts without a license, advertise the fact widely, and later, aggressively prosecute anyone caught using it? The fines could pay for say, installation of wired networking :-)

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When is a transmitter not a transmitter?

Ofcom have declared that PLT is not a radio and thus does not fall under the Wireless Telegraphy Act. It falls under EMC regulations and BIS/Ofcom have not been prepared to act/rule on it in case the EU comes at them with a big stick for hindering "free trade". They do not seem to have the balls to go back to the EU and declare PLT illegal as it fails EN55022; but then we have learned EN55022 is not legally binding, although the 'Essential Requirements' are, so EN55022 should be by definition.

Prosecution would be nice, but the courts would never be able to handle the case load. It is far simpler for the gov. to publicly announce the issues via the media and give people 28 days to comply. Suppliers, such as BT Vision, would also have to pull their finger out and remedy the problem they have largely created!

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Flame

Yes it is a title

Complying with EN 55022 gives a presumption of conformity to the EMC directive as it is what is known as a harmonised standard. That is it has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union (a list can be found here http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/european-standards/documents/harmonised-standards-legislation/list-references/electromagnetic-compatibility/index_en.htm)

If the authorities (BERR & Trading Standards) wanted the vendor to show they were supplying products that comply it is this they would look for first and if BT could not produce it or the authorities decided to be proactive (as if) they could show via independent testing that it failed and then they could order its recall from consumers with BT et al picking up the tab. But they won’t, at least not till everything goes t*ts up.

Flames because the revolution is coming (to a cinema near you, popcorn extra)

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I'm all right, Jack

So, it's "only hams" that are affected, so it's not an important problem? I hope that arrogance isn't typical of the author's attitude to other people. The whole spectrum is divided up by international agreements, identifying primary and secondary users of each slot. Anyone who is a primary user of a frequency is entitled to use it without interference, whether it's granny listening to the Archers, or a radio ham relaying emergency messages from an earthquake zone.

If you think given classes of user aren't entitled to protection from your poorly-specified and designed computer comms gear, ask the ITU to remove their allocations. Until then, respect the rules or accept the consequences. Maybe our new ConDem lot can give Ofcom some teeth.

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FAIL

Failure in US

PLC or BPL (Broadband over Power Lines) has failed pretty spectacularly in the US. The combination of Ham opposition, poor data rates and installation and maintenance expenses far higher than DSL or fiber, doomed it.. As was pointed out above, there are only so many bits per second you can push through a wet noodle, and it will require more effort in terms of clever modulation schemes, noise reduction and signal power than using something made for the task, like fiber or (arguably) coaxial cable.

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