back to article Ofcom forced to publish tests on dodgy radio kit

Ofcom has been forced to disclose its own tests showing that powerline networking kit does breach the European EMC Directive, but still won't do anything to enforce compliance. Despite claiming there was no evidence that PLT kit built by Comtrend and supplied by BT was breaching EU rules on electromagnetic emissions, the …

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WTF?

Calm down dear.

"The people designing, making and selling this kit are worse scum than pedophiles..."

"...should be jailed for corruption. Hang the lot."

You do know this isn't the Daily Mail, right?

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I'm a ham

I think you'll find that there are quite a lot of radio hams and shortwave listeners about

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Stop

..... knock out sensitive radio

"but as the mains wiring isn't shielded those signals leak out and can knock out sensitive radio users such as HAM operators."

I have two thoughts on this, firstly:

1) Really? It surprises me that a low frequency signal thats travelled across half the world will be knocked out by a device that works at very high bandwidth and hence wont travel far

2) Do I care? I know this is selfish, but really how many HAM operators are there? And more to the point, how many might be near (in fact incredibly near) a supply that might be causing interference?

Well done Ofcom for exercising some common sense for a change methinks.

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Broadband

You're obviously missing some fundamental points here.

1. Powerline stuff uses a broadband signal and so covers a very wide range of frequencies from very low to VHF.

2. A signal that has travelled across half the world may well have little residual energy at its destination and will be easily swamped by a local signal. Think nanowatts and picowatts.

3. If I set up some equipment and knocked out your TV and radio reception then presumably that wouldn't matter either because there's only one of you.

4. Standards are there for a reason, in order that a multitude of different systems can coexist.

5. Ofcom appears to be volunteering to be abolished, seeing as it's useless at one of its primary functions.

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Anonymous Coward

Standards

If Ofcom had said they'd measured the kit and while technically in breach of the regulations they were not going to do anything about already installed kit as it would be too disruptive but the manufacturer should not supply anymore infringing kit I'm sure most people would not have been bothered. A judicial review might have forced them to do differently but that's the nature of things.

However this looks like either a degree of incompetence or duplicity (or both) and shows them up as dodgy bunch. So how are we to trust them when they are supposed to be enforcing standards that really matter.

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Why Care

Because a suitable saturation of these things will also interfere with Emergency services for instance.

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Flame

Failure to understand radio!

Radio signals may have travelled half-way around the world, but they are easily swamped by locally generated RFI from PLT, Switched Mode Power Supplies, Thermostats, Plasma TV, Valiant Boilers and more. Even local strong signals from a couple of miles can be swamped by signals from PLT!

You should care that a government organisation charged with protecting the radio spectrum has been shown to be corrupt and inept. It might be HF radio that is bearing the brunt of the interference, but VHF is next! There are a new breed of PLT which wipes out everything to 300MHz. You can kiss goodbye to your FM and DAB!

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How many?

Bear in mind that ham operators worldwide generally have access to small bits of spectrum scattered all over the bands, squeezed between the other legitimate users of those bands. Anything which interferes with ham radio has the potential to interfere with everything else, which includes leisure services like TV & FM radio, emergency services, and other professional users.

It's Ofcom's job to ensure fair treatment for *all* users, which of course it hasn't done since it was turned into the government's spectrum pimp.

As with any other law, once the people charged with enforcing it sell out, lots of other unscrupulous folks will jump on the bandwagon and start abusing it because they know they won't be censured. Just because ham users are in a minority doesn't mean that their concerns can be ignored. That way lies tyranny, or anarchy.

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FAIL

@ Pahhh

You sir appear to have missed the point by a farily wide mark; if you think corruption, bare-faced lying and the supression of truth demonstrate a modicum of common sense you should apply for a job in the government.

What will you think of their common sense once we the taxpayer get lumped with another euro-fine for our goverments wilful law breaking?

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Joke

Oh noes not DAB!

so nationally thats 3 radio hams and both DAB listeners effected!

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"Tony Blair defence":

aka lying in their teeth about it, then when caught refusing to apologise.

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Grenade

Excellent

At last - proof I don't need to worry about meeting the EMC directive...

AC for obvious reasons

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Simple test

Did public money pay for the research?

Then the report and raw data must be made public.]

End of discussion.

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Thumb Down

Worse scum than pedophiles?

I dislike these devices also (UVB-76 ftw) but I wouldn't go that far. It is an absolute travesty that these were even allowed to be sold in the first place and I think things will only change when the first Rescue helicopter/Police car/Army/whatever user finds that they can only hear the beeps and chirps of the interference.

Cue the standard argument process:

"I live in a 6 million year old house with 5 meter thick walls, I couldn't possibly run CAT-5/6, that would just be what a MENTAL would do"

"I am a radio HAM and I'd like to strongly physically violate anyone who either uses these devices"

and so on and so forth

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Unhappy

Scammers

Further evidence that OffCom is in the pocket of BT. This jamming kit should be outlawed.

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Your leaving out points 3 and 4

3: The kit also interferes with FM. Lots of people use that.

4: Its in breach of the regulations, and they've been caught lying by saying otherwise.

They appear to be saying its OK to break the regulations if you have the right friends.

They have been cracking down on Pirate FM radio stations for years for creating minimal interference Of course when BT do it, its fine.

IMO, There supposed to be a regulator. Its not OFCOM's job to decide what is and isnt in the public interest.

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Heart

Yay!!

At least we now have proof that ofcom are a bunch of crooks who are on the make, even if nothing will get done about it.

Also, not enforcing the law because they reasoned it's "not in the public interest" as the world and it's dog was already using this kit? That's a hell of a precedent for a government body to set, lets hope they apply the same reasoning to the tera-bytes of films sitting on my hard drive.

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Anonymous Coward

BENT

"At least we now have proof that ofcom are a bunch of crooks...."

Who isn't in this country?

This is yet more proof of how corrupt "Great" Britian is.

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Thumb Down

Picking and choosing which bits to enforce

Killing off this kit would upset one very big Telco - it's the size of that company that's probably kept it all quiet. The argument was that this isn't radio equipment, but it sure is a potential wrecker of the spectrum below whatever nominal data rate it's trying to achieve.

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Happy

BT must have a big bribe budget

If they can afford Ofcom, the Data Protection Registrar and the Information Commissioner!

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AC needs a reboot

Something is wrong in your world if screwing someone's RF spectrum is worse than your comparison

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Spectrum

This kind of interference not only disrupts amateurs it can disrupt emergency services, baby monitors and many others.

Further sales of these devices should be suspended there are plenty of alternatives available.

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does this

mean that homeplugs are iffy in any way? I've got a lot of them you see :)

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Alert

All PLA devices breach EN55022

It does not matter if they are UPA devices from Comtrend or HPA devices from Netgear, they all fail EN55022 and cause massive amounts of radio interference. The new HPA devices are worse as they have been seen knocking out FM and DAB and producing harmonics up to 1GHz.

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Re : All PLA devices breach EN55022

Personally I would like the see the data for all the adaptors that have such already submitted, and ask the regulator to obtain data for any that are missing. I originally got, and still use, a few HomePlug AV adaptors before I was aware of some of the issues. These are from Zyxel and Devolo but, although i've seen a couple of test results from other manufacturers (e.g. Comtrend), i've not been able to find any test or certification data for these.

This issue is something i'm thinking about and could effect my usage of the adaptors, or how they are setup on the wiring, but i'd like to know more before I spend time or money sorting things out.. e.g. what notching is present in the devices.

If anyone is issuing another FOI then i'd be interesting in getting as much information as possible on as wide a range of adaptors as possible - how likely is that ?

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Anonymous Coward

EN55022 test results

Extremely unlikely Tim. None of the manufacturers can show compliance, even though they list it on their Declarations of Conformity; and still list Committee Drafts as "standards".

The only way you will obtain test data is to submit your PLT devices to a UKAS accredited test house and pay for the EN55022 testing. This is what members of UKQRM did in order to publish the real results; which you can find here: http://www.ban-plt.co.uk/tests.php

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Anonymous Coward

DVB-T too

Over the road from me got the kit just before last Christmas. When they're streaming video (it regularly goes on in the evening) I instantly lose a couple of DVB multiplexes, the ones carrying BBC1-2 and CH4. Fortunately I can just switch back to analogue, but not for too much longer. I shall probably move before the switch off happens though.

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Stop

Then complain about it !

>> When they're streaming video (it regularly goes on in the evening) I instantly lose a couple of DVB multiplexes, the ones carrying BBC1-2 and CH4. Fortunately I can just switch back to analogue ...

But you shouldn't have to switch back to analogue (which won't be an option for anyone at all in a couple of years). The point of EMC regulations is so that people shouldn't have this sort of problem. And to all those imbeciles with a "it's only a few old beardies, why should we care ?' attitude - FFS it's isn't just Radio Amateurs that are affected, it's just that Radio Amateurs are the only ones prepared to kick up a fuss about it. FYI, even our CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) has expressed concerns as some of the newer kit risks interfering with aviation radio systems. Still think it's a storm about nothing ?

I'm actually not at all surprised that TV reception has been shown to be affected. While the kit itself may only be designed to generate frequencies up to a few tens of MHz, when driving something that's as badly matches as some random bit of T&E with multiple joints and branches, it's highly likely that spurious emissions will go several order of magnitude higher in frequency. So that's the TV bands splattered over, and above that is one of the aviation bands.

One of the excuses OfCon has used for inaction is that "few have complained, and most of them are radio hams". It also seems that many people (radio hams included) haven't bothered complaining because they don't expect anything will be done about it. So please, anyone who has been affected at all, please complain to OfCon so they can no longer use that excuse.

Apart from the immediate problems caused, this case is important for the precedent it sets. As others have jokingly said, does it now mean that if you give a load of them away quickly enough, you'll be let off as it would inconvenience the public to have them banned ? Well enjoy the repercussions of that if it comes to pass and your TV goes off.

On a ore serious note, perhaps some of use should set up some public demonstrations. Set up something similar but designed to knock out TV. We'd soon see the "I don't care, it's only a few old beardies" attitude change then !

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Anonymous Coward

But who to?

Thank you for a well considered reply. Here is a relevant extract dug up from Ofcom's site:

"The BBC are now responsible for investigating complaints of interference to domestic radio and television.

"Potential causes of interference inside the home can include central heating thermostats, fridge-freezers and some dimmer switches, for example on halogen lights. Under some circumstances, radio or other electrical equipment outside your home can also cause interference.

"Before reporting interference to the BBC, you should check your TV or Radio installation to ensure it is operating correctly. In some cases, faults such as poor aerial connections, can cause be the cause of the interference.

So, clearly it's not Ofcom's problem then, and from that it would seem the fault is most likely to be of my own doing. Despite possessing an engineering degree, I feel quite put off before I have even started.

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Andy

Ofcom is an evidence-based regulator that suppressed evidence and refused to regulate. The interference from these devices can radiate over several hundred yards and make weak-signal comms impossible. Closer in it swamps even strong signals. You only need one pair of these things in your village to wreck your radio listening.

The EMC reports that Ofcom have now been forced to disclose prove that these PLT devices vastly breach the rules and laws regarding EMC compliance, but Ofcom chose to suppress these reports and deny everything.

They lied to the public, to MPs, to Ministers and to MEPs in the process.

Ofcom is not well-liked by our current government, and I hope strong action is taken to bring those responsible to justice.

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Happy

Well done Ofcom

I use powerline networking and it's much easier than running cat5 thrpugh walls and floors. So thanks Ofcom for keeping my life easy. If this does screw up things for radio geek then meh. Get a new hobby.

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Canaries

You seem to have not noticed the reports, scattered through the thread, of these powerline networks interfering with other licenced uses such as TV broadcasts.

Radio Amateurs have to pass tests of technical knowledge, and take care to maintain their transmitters so as not to interfere with other users. So they have test equipment which can detect and measure the effects. They are also scattered across the country.

Radio Amateurs are, in matters such as this, somewhat like the miner's canary, which were more susceptible to noxious gases. When the canaries fall over, you know something is wrong.

Ofcom are idiots. This seems to go far beyond the usual discretion found in all law enforcement.

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Grenade

QK QK QK

Look, I am sorry that a minuscule number of hobby radio people are having a problem using CW or wax discs or something, but things have moved on.

Time to embrace the new century gentlemen.

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FAIL

So you do not want radio?

Fine, then we'll take away your TV, FM, DAB and your mobile phone! How do you think you are going to work in the "new century" without them?

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Not to mention

Your wireless doorbell

Your wireless heating controller

Your remote car lock

Your clock/watch synchronised to the MSF signal

your kids remote control car.

Welcome to the 19th century

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Not to mention

mid Atlantic communications to/from aircraft

your wifi

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Boffin

Essential Requirements and Standards

There's this dance you can do (and which it appears the sellers of this kit are doing):

The harmonised standards you can use to demonstrate conformity with the essential requirements are effectively a shortcut. Meet the standards and you have what's termed a presumption of conformity for the apparatus. If you don't meet the standards (either because you haven't tested to them, or you actually fail them), then you can write some weasel words (the technical term is "extended justification") to explain why you don't need to meet the standard - perhaps your apparatus is only ever going to be used in a screened room, or on a desolate hillside miles from the nearest neighbour to [potentially] interfere with.

Sometimes these weasel words are just that, other times they are wholly justifiable.

So, it isn't always as clear cut as "meets standards==pass, doesn't==fail". Which isn't to say that it isn't clear-cut in this case - I haven't seen the margin of fail, or the extended justification.

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Wax discs?

In response to the ignorant and selfish Andy97 and GatesFanbois. Since when did radio amateurs use wax discs? I'm afraid your childish posts just reveal your lack of knowledge. AR is not an old-fashioned hobby. Many of us use cutting-edge digital techniques and digital signal processing is in common usage. Communication via satellite and moonbounce is in regular usage.

We have rules and laws which were put in place to keep the radio spectrum clean, and these need to be obeyed. Ofcom is the UK regulator but they failed to enforce the rules, thus allowing the widespread pollution of the RF spectrum to take place.

It doesn't matter how many people are affected, it matters that the law is being openly broken.

Perhaps you wouldn't mind being told by the police that they weren't going to investigate the burglary of your home because hey, only one person was affected and anyway the burglars only took your TV and a few quid?

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Stop

The argument was that this isn't radio equipment,

There are still laws applicable and even if it isn't in ofcom's remit to prosecute, then it should at the very least have referred the problem to the Home Office with the request that somebody else be appointed to prosecute. Or perhaps ofcom's remit should have been expanded to include enforcement of devices that aren't radio equipment but nevertheless unlawfully transmit unintentional radio signals in excess of the permitted levels.

If nothing else, the company concerned could probably be prosecuted either for bearing the CE mark which does not comply with an applicable law, since the CE mark is the manufacturer's legal assertion that the device complies with all applicable laws.

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Stop

"Time to embrace the new century gentlemen..."

These sorts of mindless comments reveal a deep and profound ignorance of the facts. Anyone that actually understands the importance of the HF and VHF radio spectrum would not make such foolish statements. There is absolutely no excuse for allowing any form of "power line" communications scheme where it leaks noise into the local radio spectrum.

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WTF?

Something doesnt ring right...

Thanks for the thumbs down, somehow I think a lot of you are full of bull....

Firstly, if ANY of these devices had any chance of interfering with emergency services then I was be AMAZED if OFCOM didnt pounce on this. So I will take those comments as irrelevant noise (ha! cheap pun)

Secondly, PLC are sold in the US. This is the country that has crazy regulations on RF inteference. Thats why anything anything sold to the US has a metal cage around it just in case some RF might interfer with something.

Yes of course PLC will emmit. They couldnt work if they didnt. I just cant believe that its such a big problem that it warrants the banning of PLCs.

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FAIL

Metal cage is fine...

...as long as the whole thing is witin the metal cage, the PLC has what is essentailly a huge great ariel attached to it which is not contained within the metal cage.

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Fcc

You are correct these things are available in the U.S.

The FCC was sued for redacting data that would of shed doubt on their decision to allow their use.

Sounds familar.

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Time to stop digging ?

>> Secondly, PLC are sold in the US. This is the country that has crazy regulations on RF inteference. Thats why anything anything sold to the US has a metal cage around it just in case some RF might interfer with something.

There is a saying that when in a deep hole, stop digging. You exhibit a good ignorance of facts with that statement. Firstly, not everything sold in the USA has a metal case - they get a lot of plastic cased "wall warts" just like we do. A lot of the power supplies sold there are **exactly** the same as those sold here, and nearly identical except for the pins sticking in the case of units with integral plug.

Secondly, and more importantly, their EMC regulations are quite different to ours and it is my understanding that you can very easily built kit that meets the US specs with room to spare, but fails dismally when compared with EU specs. That's not a commentary on whether one system is better or worse than the other - just an observation that they are different.

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Troll

Nobody cares

What you 'think' or 'believe' as you have aready demonstrated that you don't have a clue.

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WTF?

Scrap Ofcom

because they are useless.

Wasn't it Ofcom that was supposed to protect the consumer from BT and Phorm? They actually protected BT and they are doing the same in this case.

Are Ofcom in the pocket of BT? Is it one of those situations were big business offers directorships or special jobs to regulators, because to offer a briefcase of money is illegal?

And when are Wikileaks going to release the M$ OOXML ISO information? That should prove interesting.

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Who the fuck do OFCom think they are?

We paid for that fucking report so give us it now! You are our fucking servants you ungrateful, lying, corrupt, pathetic little fucks! I really cannot express my anger enough at these fucking parasitic criminals who take our money and refuse to work for us. Hanging would be too good for this bunch of pricks.

The whole fucking lot should go to jail for theft of public money -- since they're not working for us, but BT.

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