Powerline Telecommunications kit fails EU standards, but Ofcom tells us there's no proof of interference - and even if there was it couldn't do anything. And even if it could, it wouldn't. Despite being forced to publish its own study of PLT kit, which showed that devices in popular use generate levels of interference higher …
More money required?
My comment on that article applies equally well here.
Good on yer Reg
I know it's not the most popular issue, but I think it's important. Forget the radio geeks, forget the people with the million dollar mansions that they refuse to run CAT-5/6 around, at the very least this whole debacle has made OFCOM look like the clowns that they are.
£620,000 mansion !
well my mansion, (that I have designed myself) that when I win the lottery I have built has specific requirements for networking cables to be built into the structure of the building !! along with a server room that will provide my home with all the digital services my home will require !
Geek, well, because I am one!!!
You too huh?
That's a relief, I thought it was just me...
Ofcom still exists?
What is Ofcom's budget?
What does Ofcom actually do?
a) Too much.
b) Sweet FA.
What does Ofcom actually do?
Same as Comreg. Get as much money for Government, avoid annoying incumbents, Mobile Operators, Fixed Line Operators and ISPs (people that finance Comreg).
Certainly nothing related to Infrastructure Strategy or Consumer. The theory is that the more you charge for Spectrum the more the Market will take care of Consumer.
This is radiological incontinence - unacceptable, lazy and pernicious. The spectrum is not a sick bucket, Ofcom.
Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately, most people who end up using powerline ethernet have already tried WiFi, and have moved on because WiFi could not cut the mustard for reasons including thick walls, inconvenient location of the ADSL that the WiFi plugs into and congestion.
I wonder if Ethernt over Power...
Is the least of our worries...
I tried it in my kitchen, with disappointing results. I isolated all the big stuff - fridge, freezer, microwave - to try and clean up the signal.
Turns out a cheapo clock radio from Lidl throws enough dirt into the power lines (I assume..) to single handedly kill the endevour.
Perhaps a Radio Amateur Could Have Helped
We have mad skills re: wireless. WiFi can almost always be configured to work in a normally constructed residence. Unless the walls are made of metal, the thickness doesn't matter. The tip I give, that usually does the trick, is to get the antenna about 7' in the air, above the people and the wiring in the walls. Then you start trying directional antennas, gain antennas, Pringles cans, whatever.
Insert brown envelopes here!
Is it not amazing that PLT manufacturers can list compliance to EN55022 on their Declarations of Conformity, yet fail the test by more than a country mile, and the national regulator, who is charged with overseeing EMC compliance by BIS, does nothing?
Is it not crazy that using PLT breaches s116 of the 2006 Wireless Telegraphy act, namely in using mains wiring for something that it is not intended, yet when asked to clarify this position, Ofcom suggest you seek your own legal advise?
What is a national regulator that does not regulate for?
We don' need no steenkin' title
I'm with Ofcom on this. If they're going to spend time and resources dealing with domestic interference problems, it would be better spent trying to find a way to deal with abuse of the 2.4GHz range by crappy baby monitors and video senders etc, i.e. problems that are starting to affect almost all wi-fi users. The problem of interference with ham radio and shortwave broadcasts will go away simply by waiting a few years for the few remaining people it affects to die of old age.
The 2.4GHz band is ISM - Industrial, Scientific and Medical. ISM bands are not regulated, they are a free-for-all; that is why Wi-Fi went there. No licence costs! Put up and shut up!
As for Radio Amateurs being old and about to die. I am 38, a CB user of many years, and I am about to take the Foundation License. I am also teaching young people how to use CB and PMR. We are not going anywhere. We will out live you!
_ . _ . _ _ . _ thinks .... ....
RAs are not only hobbyists. There are numerous people like professional people in the engineering and electronics industry that have RA licences to carry out experimental and developmental work that could not otherwise be legally carried out. Equally many young people take up SWL/RA 'hobby' which whets their interest and thirst for knowledge in electronics which with some becomes a 'base' for the professional work.
It is a myth that RAs are out of date - computing and development of software is now a major part of a RA's life. The hobby appeals at various levels to people of all ages and provides a lifelong opprtuniity to learns and devlop skills.
If you really want to go back to the beginning of radio then think about this. When RF was first being discovered and developed, the government authorities decided that only what we now call the medium wave and up to around 2MHz was of use. The rest of the spectrum was handed over to 'amateur' experimenters to work with - well the authorities 'understood, it was useless.
As these 'amateur' experimenters developed techniques and studied radio wave propagation they opened for use more and more of the spectrum which in turn was taken back by the authorites.
Today this 'experimentation' ethos remains for many at the heart of being a radio amateur, In some ways the communication is the icing on the cake. It is the development of skills and knowledge that is fndamental in the life of many a RA's
You really shouldn't comment on a grown-up forum.
Why do the feeble trolls have numbers after their names?
Thirty thousand licenced UK radio amateurs
Thirty thousand licenced UK radio amateurs of ALL ages, thousands of listeners and CB operators call you on your ill-informed post. Best keep quiet when you don't really know much about the subject.
Then there's your crass selfishness, wanting to shut down baby alarms.
Will no one think of the children!
Its not just hams who will be affected...
Presumably you are about to pop your clogs then OM! it will affect far more people than just radio amateurs, just look around at all the equipment that has a wireless element to its operation (start with your mobile phone - 3g internet, DAB, TV) or equipment which will not work correctly because they are affected by the interference. I'm assuming, therefore, that before you start using any of this equipment you will have shuffled off this mortal coil. And good riddance too
Ofcom are 'powerless' (nice pun) to do anything about interference. OK, then, I'll just be running up a 3kW Marconi-style spark transmitter which will splatter across everything, and they can't do anything about it, right? The Beeb will answer "use cable", and even if they do pass it on Ofcom can't do anything about it.
(If the CAA are worried, how about the police etc.? They are far closer to houses using PLT kit than aircraft are.)
 Er, I thought that the second B stood for 'broadcasting', if they are advising cable then it isn't a broadcast.
..is desperatly needed, I now have 16 access points in range of my home router all competeting for space, some channels stronger on one side of the house, other channels on the other side.. point is WiFi is becoming useless, I feel that the only action I have available short of re wiring my house is to use powerline adapters. I don't want to, but what is available at the moment is inadequate.
I'm not going to get all grumpy and say people should not use stuff, what I am going to say is the alternatives just don't work. There's no point shouting at offcom if there is no alternative, the government regulator is there for the masses afterall.
plenty of space up there (for a while).
The answer is not to throw petrol on the fire by quadroupling the radio pollution for everyone. The interference caused by controlled Wi-Fi channels pales when compared to what you are broadcasting from your mains wires. What if all the neighbours did the same ? If you really have no alternative, I guess you are in a minority.
We have had the internet at home for 20 years now. It seems daft that our houses don't have a network point in each room. I mean, it would add like £50 to the cost of building the house.
"We have had the internet at home for 20 years now"
And networking for even longer. I have personally wired my house three times with different network cables (RS232 was the first). This house didn't even have mains electrical wiring from new.
50 quid to wire a new house with whatever cable the current networks are using may seem cheap, but it could turn out to be money wasted. I once worked at a building site where copper coax was being laid into the houses for some unspecified future use for which it very likely proved useless when the future actually arrived. Pay the extra to install conduit, and you may then avoid having to have your fibre optic (or whatever) fed in through the sewers.
It's not OFCOM's job
Trading standards enforce CE marking (and therefore conformity with standards). They are obviously well funded and keen to prevent sub-standard kit entering the market? . . . . . oh.
It is Ofcom's job.
Ofcom are the "Market Authority" charged (out-sourced) by BIS to enforce EMC regulations. Trading Standards defer to Ofcom in matters of EMC compliance (not just for PLT) and if Ofcom say it's OK, TS have no other powers to act. So dodgy Switched Mode power supplies, which are CE marked, but wipe out radio can be left in place. Aged Plasma TVs which have started to generate RFI are fine, because they are CE marked. Thermostats and Boilers which generate RFI are OK, because they are CE marked. PLT is fine, because it is CE marked!
Get the picture?
It is Ofcom's Job
EMC regs say:
37.—(1) Except in relation to the descriptions of apparatus referred to in paragraph (3), it shall
be the duty of the following authorities to enforce these Regulations—
(a) in Great Britain:
(i) OFCOM insofar as action taken to enforce a regulation relates to the protection and
management of the radio spectrum; and
(ii) local weights and measures authorities within their area;
Every PLT installation is a radio protection and management problem!
CAA have concerns with PLT
So we are to ignore such statements in the CAA briefing document to the ICAO - AERONAUTICAL COMMUNICATIONS PANEL (ACP) on 27 September 2010 (http://www.icao.int/anb/panels/acp/wg/f/wgf23/acp-wgf23-ip20-information%20paper%20on%20plt.doc) like:
PLT systems are being deployed for the provision of broadband access to homes and commercial properties, as well as within the home for sending data and high definition video without the need for additional wires. [B]However the mains system that is being used as the transport medium has not been designed to carry these signals[/B]. There is the possibility that the mains system will radiate these signals, and hence cause interference to radio systems operating in the frequency range of the PLT signal.
A theoretical study undertaken by the CAA indicating the maximum aggregated signal level of PLT at an aircraft antenna that would not cause interference has been submitted by the UK to the International Telecommunications Union Working Party 5B. This study would suggest that the emission levels from PLT could exceed this limit. These findings are supported by a report commissioned from PA Consulting by Ofcom that indicates the probability of interference to ILS is greater than 20% without some additional mitigation measures being applied. This probability decreases to less than 1% at the edge of the ILS coverage if mitigation of at least 30dB is applied. However in aeronautical safety terms this is still a significant percentage. These figures are based on a number of assumptions that need to be verified since a number of them are based on limited practical evidence.
No practical work has yet been carried out to verify whether the theoretically predicted threat is real.
4. Potential Impact
If theory is supported by practical testing then the effect on the various aeronautical systems are likely to be:-
ILS: Either loss of lock that would be flagged by the equipment itself or the introduction of some slight path error.
VOR: Increased difficulty in detecting and resolving the signal that may increase the variation in the bearing accuracy.
GBAS: Either block the differential signal or reduce the accuracy of the differential information. Both would result in reduction of the augmented GNSS positional accuracy.
Comms: Either increased difficulty in resolving the message being passed or, during quiet periods, noise defeating the squelch level and being heard by either the pilot or the air traffic controller.
The severity and duration of the effect will depend on a number of factors such as the location of the aircraft, the level of the radiated PLT signal and the number of PLT systems in operation within line of sight of the aircraft/VHF communications ground station. If the impact is severe enough then facilities may have to be closed."
OfCom are aware of CAA concerns but perhaps as an 'evidence' based regulator, they are looking for something 'tangible' to happen.
elsewhere in this document (section 2) it is staed correctly "Power line telecommunication (PLT) systems operate by injecting a modulated carrier signal on the mains electricity. Since main wiring was originally designed for the transmission of AC power modulated at frequencies around 50 Hz their ability to carry higher frequencies is limited". Now this is wuite correct as it identifies that PLT is using RF over "over paths that are not provided by any material substance constructed or arranged for the purpose".
This goes to the root of the problem - PLT is wireless telegrapgy apparatus and so rhould be either licenced or , if the interference confitioms are met, licence exempt.. There it must have its own radio spectrum allocation. There is non-such available for this wideband device. However there is for PLC which is narrowband. - Imagine that double standards from our regulator!!
"One mans hobby"?
OK, with that application of Logic I'm off to the property of Colette Bowe, chair(wo)man of OfCom, to nick all her stuff. I'm breaking the law, but hey, it doesn't matter, I'm only affecting one person. They obviously have far more important things to be doing, such as censoring comedy. AC because the same rules probably don't apply to me.
My new hobby
Is intefering with BT homehub signals.
"Waiting for something 'tangible' to happen"...
Like a plane crash.
Takes out DAB broadcasts....
......and nobody's complained?
That would appear to say more about DAB takeup than anything we've heard to date on the subject from, er, OFCOM.....
DAB reception is so patchy....
....how would anybody tell the difference? Why would people complain (more than usual) about poor DAB reception, when that is the norm?
As I said......
Years ago when the amateur radio licence went from 15 quid a year to free: you get what you pay for.
O£COM is in the money business.
As for wifi and problems......the are four bt systems close to me.....all on channel 1.
Which says it all really.
The house next door has powerline comms .... and I have high interference levels on vhf.
Obviously it is not happening, fortunately the guy is having problems with interference to vhf fm broadcast radio.
Ofcom response demonstrates their ignorance
When Ofcom say that mobile phones held very close to audio equipment "causes interference" it is the audio equipment that is slighly EMC deficient being largely unscreened,the audio gear does not use or need to use any radio frequencies.
What we are suffering is interference coming from up to several hundred meters away caused by the
adaptors using and radiating from unsuitable mains wiring exactly the same freqencies we are trying
to legitmately listen on.
Are not all the cases that have been reported to Ofcom in spite of all the obstructionism we have had to endure proof in themselves that there is a problem ?
By no means all the cases reported have been sucessfully resolved as some owners adopt an im alright Jack attitude and refuse to cooperate, Ofcom then claims to have no powers to act.
Well we all know what to think of Ofcoms claims don't we ?
"mobile phones, electric drills and starter motors are still permitted when they can generate similar levels of interference"
Unless you apply the rules consistently, then you can't selectively complain about Powerline RF interference.
Everytime the next doors scrote starts up his hairdryer or motor scooter, their badly supressed motor contacts throw out enough RF noise to disrupt even my digital TV. Hell - some kids toys do this too.
The difference with PLT being....
....that many of the devices are transmitting full bandwidth data 24 hours a day even when not in use for BT Vision, or there is no network data to transmit. That's a bit of a different level of interference in comparison with short-lived problems like electric drills or kids' scooters. At least the latter tend to move out of range fairly quickly, where PLT is fixed and immovable just like houses.
re: you can't selectively complain
Powerline networking devices deliberately generate RF signals that the network medium isn't designed to carry, let alone control - that's a whole different ballgame than accidentally generating RFI with unsuppressed sparks, in equipment that isn't actually using RF. The latter also tends to be intermittent and short term, while most networks will be left running 24/7.
Does anyone know of an instance where Ofcom has made a decision in favour of ordinary people against a large corporation?
If so, did they then take any real action?
Being useless for over 20 years. And we're still going strong.
20 years old?
"Being useless for over 20 years. And we're still going strong."
Useless, yes. But since OFCOM was created on December 29, 2003, your maths needs remedial help.
So... anyone can be a criminal and not get their collar felt?
So, lets get this right... anyone can take an piece of electronic equipment and stamp Chinese Export ("CE") on it and whether it passes the required testing or not is irrelevant?
As far as I was aware "... a criminal office is committed if a device is placed on the market or taken in to use [after the proscribed date] that fails to meet the basic protection requirements of the (EMC) Directive".
There is something very dodgy going on here... Ofcom *should* publicly state that XYZ products fail to meet the requirements of the Directive at which point they *should* be prohibited from sale or use *and* Trading Standards *should* enforce it.
Otherwise what is the point of all the legislation, standards, conformance testing and enforcement people? Is this all just some glorious gravy train that actually means NOTHING??
Surely its about time that the BBC, CAA, RSGB, Police, Military and any other stakeholders in the radio spectrum **forced** some action out of Ofcom... perhaps they need a big pointy stick in the form of a judicial review of their (in)actions and failure to enforce law?
CE marked items are self-certified (*)
The European Commission DG ENTR (enterprise) TRUSTS and allows manufacturers to self certify CE. The DG ENTR then claims that they can optionally VERIFY, should they feel the need to.
according to some things I've read, quite a majority of device labelled CE seem to fail when tested (independently, other than by DG ENTR)
(*) some CE devices, such as my Nokia E65 are labelled not just CE but "CE0434(!)" this indicates that the device has actually been type approved and lab tested for conformance. My MacBook is similarly "CE0984(!)" (the exclamation mark is due to the transmitters) CE 0434 testing is made by Det Norske Veritas in HØVIK.
Could PLT devices be neutrally retested then banned somwehere like Sweden on health grounds? (where RF electrosensitivity is a recognised medical condition) then start a dialogue with DG ENTR to re-evaluate illegal devices that likely fail CE and the directives EMC 2004/108/EC, R&TTE Directive 95/5/EC, radiated spectrum EN 300328 v1.6.1.
DG ENTR have the opportunity to VERIFY these PLT devices, I'm not quite sure how to get them to start verification, writing an exceedingly polite letter to DG ENTR BREY 7/. B-1049 Brussels might do the job?
Men in Black
I have it on authority that members of UKQRM, who were invited to several "stakeholder" meetings with Ofcom, sat in amazement as the 'Men in Black' from DG Enterprises simply said "No barrier to free trade!" and refused to discuss the issue further. PLT carries the CE mark - that's good enough for them! Invalid Declarations of Conformity are a matter for the courts.
As I said before, hand over your brown envelopes stuffed with which ever currency you fancy!
Ofcom aren't interested in PLT interference. No ambitous public sector executive ever got a cushy directorship or seat in the Lords for "Services to Combatting Radio Interference". That's OBE territory. You get the plum jobs for Beating Down Call Charges or Cracking Down On Porn, which is why Ofcom spends inordinate amounts of time and resource persecuting obscure satellite channels on the strength of one (or even no) complaint. The take home message is that regulators aren't there to enforce principles or standards but to do things that make them popular with the political classes. I infer that a similar lack of moral fibre is to be expected at places like the FSA, Ofgen and so-on, we just haven't realised it yet.
Burns me up this does
First job in Electronics was getting EMC compliance on a range of video equipment.
Every project since has had regulatory compliance for EMC and Safety foremost.
This mishandling of Power Line equipment regulation the UK has made a mockery of this work.
My next client will quite correctly ask why they need to pay for EMC design and testing since
if nobody is prosecuting the Power Line Telecoms equipment vendors for making false CE declarations - they can get away with it too.
Unintentional vs. Intentional Radiators
Here in the U.S. the Part 15 mentions unintentional and intentional radiators. Well, if you have a motor, printer or other similar device radiates interference, it was not meant to do so and the interference is unintentional. It can also be mitigated by filtering with EMI suppressor sleeves on the cables, for example. These are the black bulges on the ends of the cable.
But now you have this power line ethernet device where the whole design is centered around the transmission (and incidental radiation) of high frequency energy over bare wires. If that isn't intentional, I don't know what is. If you try to get rid of it by filtering it out., the whole system stops working. In other words, the system is built in such as way as to purposely interfere with other nearby equipment.
I saw these were now available at the Microcenter store in their ads last week. FIrst off, I would never put one in service on my premises, because of the interference. Second, has anyone looked into the security of these signals? Can just anyone decode the radiated signals and find your private information? I would never trust them because of this risk.
Another problem that can happen with commercial installations where three phase power is used is that the sending equipment is on one phase, and the receiving equipment on another phase. So you end up with spotty or no communication.
Just use WiFi, or regular cat5 wiring. Just say NO to this junk.
One could legitimately (in ofcom's eyes) generate interference with illegal jammers which kills the effectiveness of these items.
Ofcom would slap you down under the Wireless Telegraphy Act; although we believe they don't actually have the powers to intervene?!
UKQRM has heard of a case where an interference source is affecting a nearby TETRA base station. The owner of the source is refusing to co-operate, so we are watching to see if Ofcom have any powers to bring a prosecution.
View from UKQRM founder
My thanks firstly to The Register for reporting on this issue.
I often feel a great deal of surprise when I look back to my first ever experience of BT supplied PLT, back then I thought that the authorities would not tolerate such a thing and it would all be over very quickly!
Shocking then that the authorities not only tolerate but encourage it.
Some may wish to write of radio listeners as 'geeks' or 'sad O's' while disagreeing with this as you might imagine I would point out that this is not the first time that ordinary members of the public have noticed something disturbing and raised the matter!
The small man can and should not fear standing up if he feels something is wrong.
While initially BT, Comtrend, HPA, Ofcom and others were able to say "Its just a minority" now it could be you! No it really could! the new breed of PLT has conclusively been shown to disable DAB and FM broadcast radio! and experienced engineers have shown it can disrupt other more essential services such as air craft ILS and much more.
As PLT becomes 'smart' and is able to ramp up its power to preserve its network, imagine then all houses in your street using it? DAB and FM would be pointless, stereos and other audio equipment would start to relay the noise of the PLT as has happened already!
And because PLT is in fact radio transmitters, separate networks will and already do see each other and adjust accordingly, more and more radio noise as each seeks to preserve its connection.
Come the time when there is a disaster (and lets hope it does not kill anyone) and the enquiry shows that it was caused partly of wholly by PLT, then those who should have acted, those who have acted dishonestly will not be able to say, they did not know!
Its not just a few of us having our chosen hobby removed, it could well affect everyone very soon.
beware of the blinkers of digitally controlled media -
Thank you Register for pressing on with this apparently 'non-popular' issue. It is by nature a techniacal one as as such the popular press will only see as having a niche interest so won't seel column inches.
This is very sad as it typifies mainstream media's increasing failure to be proper investigative journalists. We have people like John Pilger (JohnPilger.com) who are prepared to go out and put their lives on the line while many are content with ministerial briefings, unattributed leaks and embedded journalism, all of which is not by their very nature independent but is propaganda, by another name. Here we have Ofcom briefing ministers with misinformation - misinformation on which decisions and policy is made. Either, once informed, the MP's are being complicit in this farce or they are ignorant of the true facts
Why does the BBC promote these devices while at the same time their research department decry their obvious potential for interference (not to say environmental pollution and possible affects to the human bodiy's own magnetis field.
The bbc that people might find interesting is http://www.bbc5,tv - so be open-minded and please be you own invetigative journo and take the bllnkers off before we are all totally dependent in the controlled digital media that cuts you off from other sources of information.out there.
Tho' PLT devices seems to be small beer but I would suggest it is symbolic of the deceit that appears all around us.
"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell