A US start-up is developing technology that can send data, voice or video signals over electric power lines with connections of 2.5 gigabits per second.
Media Fusion has also signed confidentiality agreements with at least six electrical utilities and an unnamed European venture group has agreed to purchase a technology license for $65 million.
The company was established in 1998 to develop, install and manage low cost infrastructure that provides voice, video and Internet services over the power grid. It has completed the design and laboratory testing stages of its proprietary network system and will finalise the construction and installation of its first system by the end of this month.
William Stewart, Media Fusion's chief scientist, developed the technologies two years ago with the help of Ed Blair, an entrepreneur from Dallas, Texas, and chief executive of the firm. "It's like the Empire State Building. You can build a model, but it's only a model until you build the building itself," Blair said.
Stewart added: "The power grid contains line noise, which degrades signals, load imbalances, which disrupt communications, and transformers which make signals difficult to control."
He claimed that Media Fusion's technology overcomes these obstacles by inscribing data within the natural low frequency bandwidth of the electric wave to send information. It identifies all data and frequencies riding within the wave and converts those signals into interpretable forms in "real time" by using state of the art signal processing equipment.
The system also manipulates the magnetic field created around any moving stream of electrons and the information is then, in theory, carried around the entire power grid at the speed of light, accessible anywhere on the grid.
The system will use a set of "nitelight" modem like devices that plug into household electricity outlets. The devices are equipped with a jack for phone lines and cable TV lines and take an analog signal from the power grid, decode it, and send it to a television, computer or telephone.
Although Media Fusion has not taken its technology live on a power grid, top US congressional officials said they will seek government funding for the project if the private sector does not come through.
But this support will depend on the success of the system's first live tests, which the company said will begin in just a few months. By the end of the year, Media Fusion will join with at least one utility in trials of its prototype "nitelight," and expects to produce devices commercially next year.
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