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Ethernet Via Electric Conduits 97

windows bios world writes "From a CNet article NYC businesses will be able to get internet access via ethernet routed through electrical conduits from a subsidiary of Con Edison. CEC is targeting business customers and telecommunications carriers with its PowerLan Ethernet services as part of a larger strategy to become the premier provider of high-bandwidth transport services for New York." Interesting that a non-telecommunications firm can parley a single asset (right-of-way in existing conduits in the crowded tunnels under Manhattan) into a business.
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Ethernet Via Electric Conduits

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  • Remember Sprint? (Score:4, Informative)

    by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Saturday June 01, 2002 @04:56AM (#3621918) Homepage
    Interesting that a non-telecommunications firm can parley a single asset (right-of-way in existing conduits in the crowded tunnels under Manhattan) into a business.

    Sprint was created when the Southern Pacific Railway realized that they could take advantage of their railway rights-of-way to lay fiber-optic cable.
    • Sprint was used for internal communications until 1968, when the FCC (Carter Phone Decision) allowed alternative to the Bell system. After that they parlayed it into a business.
      • Re:Remember Sprint? (Score:3, Informative)

        by jrp2 ( 458093 )
        Sprint was used for internal communications until 1968, when the FCC (Carter Phone Decision) allowed alternative to the Bell system. After that they parlayed it into a business.

        Actually, the CarterPhone decision related to connecting 3rd party (not leased from the telco) telephones and equipment to your phone line. It was instrumental in allowing things like modems. More info on CarterPhone (and a real cool telco history page) here. []

        It did not relate to Long Distance at all, that was more related to Judge Green's decision to break up AT&T. Sprint did not enter the LD market until the 80s, with details here. [] You are correct about the internal communications part though (I know IBM used them for inter-office comms in the 70s).

    • Re:Remember Sprint? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by alexburke ( 119254 ) <`ac.ekrubxela' `ta' `todhsals+xela'> on Saturday June 01, 2002 @07:15AM (#3622059)
      Sprint was created when the Southern Pacific Railway realized that they could take advantage of their railway rights-of-way to lay fiber-optic cable.

      Then, several years after the fiber had been installed at a cost of God-only-knows-how-many hundreds of millions of dollars, someone discovered their rights-of-way were for the surface and the fiber was buried... where Southern Pacific's rights-of-way didn't extend. I mean, after all, they were intended to allow them to lay track, period.


      (Whatever happened to that whole brouhaha anyway? I haven't heard anything about it in forever...)
    • Re:Remember Sprint? (Score:3, Informative)

      by elfkicker ( 162256 )
      According to Qwest's FAQ [], they were started in the same way.

      How long has Qwest been in business?
      In 1988, Southern Pacific Telecom was established as a subsidiary of Southern Pacific Railroad to lay telecom cable. This subsidiary was purchased by The Anschutz Company. The company began offering limited long distance services in 1991, changed its name to Qwest Communications in 1995, and incorporated in 1996 when it began construction of the Qwest Macro Capacity Fiber Network. Joe Nacchio was appointed CEO in January 1997 and Qwest made its Initial Public Offering in June 1997.

      Is this some kind of sham that the railroad execs pull everytime they gets a subsidy to build out new lines? Can anyone shed more light on the history of this? Or is this just misinformation. Sprint's history page [] make no mention of Southern Pacific, and dates itself back to a 1899 as a telephone and utilities upstart.
      • Re:Remember Sprint? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bboyers ( 21742 )
        From the way it was explained to me, Sprint (then called United Telecom) in the early 80's was only a local telco (small one at that), and there was a partnership between United Telcom (local telco operations), GTE (long distance), and Southern Pacific Railroad (they had the right of way for the fiber drops).

        They started building this network before the breakup of ATT. Once the breakup of ATT. The network that was being built was a long distance network, and GTE wanted out since it could provide long distance now since ATT was required to lease out part of its network to competitors. Souther Pacific wanted out since, it is a railroad company, not a telecom company.

        The partners were slowly bought out by United Telecom, and this is where the name Sprint was picked up, because Sprint was the old name of GTE's Long Distance.

        A similar thing happened with Sprint PCS, it was originally a partnership between Comcast, TCI, and Sprint. Sprint sold off their old Analog Cellular network (I think to Alltel). The cable partners joined because they feared the Baby Bells power, and want in on an alternative solution. As time went on, the cable companies were bought out by Sprint. I guess the cable partners started to realize that with the possibility of cable modems, they already owned an alternative to the baby bells.

        This is how it was explained to me, let me know if there are any mistake in it.
    • Also Williams (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheSync ( 5291 )
      Williams Communications [] was a gas and petroleum pipeline company with 100,000 miles of right-of-way. In 1985, they started putting fiber in decommissioned pipelines.

      They now have the "largest fully-lit, U.S. next-generation network with local-to-global connectivity, linking 125 cities and reaching five continents."
    • Good example. There are many others. "Right of Way" is such a precious asset, post deregulation, that lots of companies were/are getting into the act. Utility companies acrosss the country are getting into the act of converting "right of way" access to utility poles into conduits for high-speed cable/digital access.

      Utilcom Networks ( [])is a turn-key network solution provider and consultant to deregulated power companies looking to the precious asset into revenue. One example of their efforts can be found in my home state of Indiana with Vectren Energy Delivery Systems []. Vectren, formally SIGECO (Souther Indiana Gas and Electric Company), set up SIGECOM networking [] in partnership with Utilicom to provide cable, high speed Internet, and competitive local service to people in the Evansville (Vanderburgh County), Indiana. One of its benefits over Insight cable, the local cable company/cable ethernet provider, is that SIGECOM spent the extra money in its service areas and brought fiber to the curb intstead of the common cable provider practice of bringing fiber to the neighborhood. Because there is less contention (getting onto the fatter pipe of fiber without fighting it out with neighborhood traffic), SIGECOM's solution scales a lot better and they can offer nicer/robust packages to businesses... and currently they are doing qute a brisk business doing just that.

      For a similar story to that in the article, you can check out RCN Chicago [] (formaly 21st Century Telecom group which bought "right of way" access to the Loop section of the subway in Chicago and used it offer cheap high speed access alternatives to downtown residents, hotels, and businesses... starting 4 to 5 years ago.

  • sewer lines too (Score:3, Informative)

    by studarus ( 251872 ) on Saturday June 01, 2002 @04:59AM (#3621927)
    Reminds me of another project where they installed fiber optic cable through sewer lines so they didn't have to tear up the streets. They are at City Net []. I wonder what is next? Power through my cable tv line?
    • man... and i was just going to post a joke about getting my toilet connected to the internet, too.

      We need more crap on the internet.

      Oh, wait...

      • man... and i was just going to post a joke about getting my toilet connected to the internet, too.

        Hehe. Back when I was working at U.S.Robotics we had an April Fools press release describing our new "sewer modem" that used sewers as a transmission medium. It even went down to detail as to how we detected and overcame "noise" such as a toilet flushing. It was too funny, too bad I don't still have a copy to share.

    • I wonder what is next? Power through my cable tv line?

      Too late.

      Several models of Sterivision hospital TV sets use that already. These are the easily-removed pay-to-watch-Jerry-Springer-from-your-deathbed TV sets that hospitals charge for.

      Since they're installed only on demand, they have to be simple and easy to connect... one wire. They seem to run off 12VDC driven down the coax. Isolating the RF for the tuner is a simple matter of a couple of small capacitors.

      Lots of TV antenna amplifiers also use a technique like this to avoid having to run power and coax wires up a (possibly tall) TV antenna tower. Radio Shack used to sell such a system.

      Of course, the practical current is limited only by the resistance of the coax. (Resistance is *not* impedance, don't confuse 75 ohm impedance with the DC resistance of the cable.) If someone built superconductive coax, there'd be no DC resistance, and you could power your house and get RoadRunner cable Interet on the same wire... :)

  • Sorry, I'm currently sick and reading a foreign-language news article just doesn't clear the subject for me. So, tell me this isn't a real-world application of the technique to send data over power lines, is it? They're using their control cables or stuff instead?

    Gigabit class bandwidth over copper while there's Manhattan class power feed in the same lines... No way.

    Back to sleep now :)
  • by Qender ( 318699 )
    I don't remember where but in the past I read something about a city that tried something like this till they discovered that faint blinking in the city's streetlamps was enough needed to snoop on the data being transferred through it.
    • Actually, there was an article a while back about being able to dechiper modem trnsmission via the TX/RX lights falshing patterns. The short version is that since modems send serial data, the on-off tx light is a good proxy for whether the modem is sending a 1 or a 0. You can time the lights (LEDs quickly change state so optical delays are negligable), and reconstruct the waveform of the transmitted data. How useful that would be in the real world, who knows?

      Links: tm l?tid=172
  • This is definitely shocking news. :)
  • In Germany we have this "ready to go" and "coming the next couple months" for several years now. It is called Powerline. Due to recent rumours you still get little offs for starting e.g. a vacuum cleaner (not that I need Internet access for cleaning the house) and you are limited in the possibilities when connecting your whole appartment complex. Given that the very big company promoting it, namely RWE, considers cannelling it altogether.

    Now combine this with what DSL in Germany is, mainly by the ex monopolist. We had impulse dialling phones here for a very long time (and some old people still have). They can disturb DSL traffic going over a phone line, even if as far away as "the same building" (according to Telekom Inc.). So they give you DSL lines with Interleaving and you end up with ping times of at least 60 ms.

    Expect ping times of that network there to be higher.

    So, slashdotters, many of You are gamers. You will lose on that line. Sad to say it out loud, but You will all die in RTCW et. al. and your only help will be: look outside your windows and remember what you see. Its name is "Ground Zero". This is New York and starting there is not the most patriotic way of launching this service if you expect gamers (as early adopters) to hop on.
    • I don't really think you have any problems with pulse dialing and such in downtown manhatten. I also don't think this company is trying to cater to gamers with up to gigabit connections. Sure what gamer wouldn't like to have a gigabit connection, but it's a pretty good guess that anyone who could afford that connection didn't get their money playing games.
  • by Johku ( 74195 ) on Saturday June 01, 2002 @06:42AM (#3622038)

    Turku Energia (a local energy company in Finland) also announced [] (link in Finnish) a similar product couple of days ago.

    They are offering a 1.125 Mbps Internet access and they are planning for a product including a telephone line (VoIP), electricity and broadband Internet access all from a single electricity outlet. The service would also make it possible to introduce LANs into old buildings without installing any cables.

    In the testing phase they had some problems with interference but they report those problems being solved now.

    • The article talks about using the underground conduits to pass communication cables in addition to the electric wires, not about transmitting data over the power lines.

      Powerline communication is nice, but it can't quite compete with fiber.
    • Using power lines for data transfers is rather stupid - those lines just aren't designed to transmit high frequencies. Losses are high, and cabling acts as a bad antenna. If taken in use in high scale, this will bring up the RF noise levels in areas where it is in use.
      For radio amateurs, this means that reception will be bad, and only way to get through is to use high power levels.
      These mentioned interference problems were solved by spreading the used spectrum more - which only distributes the noise into wider band.

      Eavesdropping will be also ridicilously easy with PLC.

      Those who get allergic symptoms from electric fields, might want to react on this also, as PLC radiates a lot from cabling meant to use with low frequencies only. (50Hz in here)
  • by Syre ( 234917 ) on Saturday June 01, 2002 @07:01AM (#3622051)
    Back in the mid-80s I was doing networking down on Wall St. and we needed to connect ethernet LANs in two buildings that were about 100 yards apart.

    We looked into running cable, but the rights-of-way were not available. We looked into getting dark fiber, but NY Telephone said they were not tarrifed to let us have it (although there was in fact dark fiber already in the buildings).

    Then we talked to a company that would run the cable using their right-of-way. That company was (if I recall correctly) called "Metropolitan City Subway" and had nothing whatsoever to do with the subways. Their sole reason for existence, so far as I could tell, was to rent people parts of their right-of-way, which they had obtained I have no idea how.

    They proposed letting us run a cable between the buildings but not directly. We would have to go down to the tip of Manhattan and back again. Instead of 100 yards it was about 4 miles. They also wanted to charge us $20K per month, and had few safety provisions in place to guarantee that our cable wouldn't suddenly be cut by their or other workers.

    Based on the long cable run, the costs, and the uncertainty, we passed, and I ended up installing the first microwave ethernet link in Manhattan instead (24GHz microwave between two ethernet bridges). Which worked fine and required no right-of-way...
    • It's Empire City Subway, a subsidiary of what is now Verizon.
    • Ironic how some things never change but yet they do. Right of way for cabling has yet to evolve, don't these companies realize they can no longer charge an arm and a leg to people who just want to connect buildings together??.

      I did the exact same thing (connect 2 buildings about 200 yards apart) with some wireless equipment. $500 of off the shelf equipment and antenna's got me a stable link with no reoccuring costs. The phone company wanted like $1000/mth plus equipment rental.

      Cost savings is the root to inovatation.
    • ...the first microwave ethernet link in Manhattan instead (24GHz microwave between two ethernet bridges). Which worked fine and required no right-of-way... fine. Aside from the occasional dropout from a pigeon flying into the beam...

      zzzzt. crispy fries.

  • LAN/Internet via the powerlines has alreay been tried in Germany, in the Ruhr-Gebiet to be specivic (for non Germans: Ruhr-Gebiet = area in Germany where lots of big cities are REALLY close to each other), too.
    Unfortunately it didnt seem to work out that well, they had tons of problems with interferences in the lines (limiting bandwith and causing total network failurse every few weeks) and that the bandwith per user slowly dwindled into 56k areas since too many people signed up for the field test (and I dont even want to mention ping times here, gamers stay away!)
    To cut a long story short, even though the German Telekom dominated the internet sector with their crappy and expensive service and people were looking for alternatives, the field test for powerline from the electicity companies failed and was ended last month... :(
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 01, 2002 @07:51AM (#3622083)
    This is simply using the conduit (the containers of electrical wires) to house network cables.

    Their advantage is that they have existing right of way all over the city and they have spare room to lay in new cables (new fiber or copper).
    • As is the person who wrote the article. There is NO way they could use the actual "conduit" that runs throughout the subway and sewer systems.

      1. According to the NEC (national electrical Code, ALL conduit containing power wires must be GROUNDED - i.e. if you tried running signals THROUGH the conduit, it would go nowhere!

      2. Even if the conduit were NOT grounded, there are poor electrical connections between secitions of conduit. Almost all condiut installations use a sort of lubricating grease (usually called "penetrox") to keep moisture out of the conduit and seal up the conductivity isn't the best.....

      3. The NEC would NEVER allow for electrical/power signals to be run through electrified conduits for the mere fact that people could get electrocuted!
    • One more time: The National Electrical Code prohibits running electrically conductive communication cables in the same conduit as power cables, so, no copper (or any other metal, probably). It's also a bad idea because of induced signals.
  • "Our diverse network backbone truly makes CEC a 'smart alternative' to incumbent carriers in New York," Chief Executive Peter Rust said in a release. CEC already offers T1 and T3 services (private connections for high-speed Internet access) over its conduits and said it has 100 buildings on its network.

    T1 and T3 are private connections? Don't think so. If Mr. Rust is referring to DSL services, then he may be correct, otherwise, he has no clue as to what his company is even providing. ADSL(average throttle *dnld* is approx 1.544 Mbps(T1) upload is not even close(around 300-600 kbps))-Also the cost differences for private DSL and business-grade DSL is tremendous. For ADSL=approx $80 depending on where you live, T1=A fractional T1 can cost you over $50 per 64k channel(24)and for full T1, you're looking @ $500-$1000 depending on provider options. Let's not even get into T3's(these day's, with so much fiber unlit, it's not unheard of to get an OC-3(3 Optical Channel T3's) for the price of a single T3.
    If I were you, I'd stick with Verizon, at least they know what they're selling.

  • What happened to all those folks lamenting the terrible state of affairs here in the US due to the monopolistic practices of big corporations.

    I thought it was IMPOSSIBLE to have a new internet provider due to these monopolistic practices.

    Amazing, eh? Perhaps quick innovations like this will help statists of all varities to think twice before they claim the free market is incapable of serving the needs of the people. This is just a few WEEKS after provisions of the 1996 telecommunications act was struck down by the supreme court.

    Imagine what will happen in a year. Or ten.

  • I used to be pretty excited about developments like Ethernet over powered electrical wiring in houses, etc.

    But lately I have to wonder about the economic viability of any communications technology that makes use of fixed lines.

    It seems to me that wireless communications is constantly getting better and cheaper, while anything over land lines has to contend with the cost of installing and maintaining those lines. In the case of lines that already exist, they're mostly copper and too limited in bandwidth.

    Unless you've got something where the high speed of fiber optic links is critical, then it seems like small, low power, wireless cells linking into a few fixed access points to optical land lines is the way to do things.

  • The important issue here is that Ethernet services can be delivered over an already developed infrastructure. How many people worldwide have access to normal telephone services (something like less than 30 percent, if I remember correctly)? Yet, how many people worldwide have access to normal power lines (about 87 percent)!

    While wireless technologies are being developed, for long range hauls (1000s of miles) it is still relatively expensive to deploy into remote areas of the world. The idea is that once stable communications can be delivered over a power grid network, we can reach over 50 percent more people in the world!

    I hope they succeed!
  • Back in the '70s and early '80s, the Williams company of Tulsa Oklahoma started laying fiber in their oil and gas pipelines. It made perfect sense since they had the right of way. Thus, the Wiltel network was born (later to be absorbed into Worldcom.)

  • You mean like their subsidiary, Con Edison Communications, which already leases T1 and T3? Yeah, that's a non-telecom firm.

    Of course, everyone's in the telecom business these days.
  • This all sounds plausible. We were considering switching our cat-5 backbone to the electrical cabling, but the diagnostics would have been a whole new world. I mean, with the AC, the network model gets even more complex, because not only does your network have to handle new computers, new IPs, new MACs, etc. but you also have to deal with "users" plugging in their coffee grinders, custodians running their high powered vacuums and floor buffers, as well as the next door construction crew running their mitre saws, etc. If that extra "random" noise won't confuse the hell out of a network admin, then he deserves the credit of "ethernet god" without hesitation.

    Seriously, Edison probably can handle all this with error correction and their own special network adapters. But what I'm curious about is the range of broadcasts. Will Edison implement switches for connecting these corporate users/networks, or will everyone in the same grid see each other's traffic like the cable broadband network model? Then we run into snarfing issues.

    Another question is how will Edison handle subnets? If everyone is sharing the same AC loop (like the old coax network model) where would the bridge points be? Obviously Edisons router would be one. But what if a corporate lan wanted to also use the AC cable as its backbone? Then you have competition between the Edison router and the corporate lan router since there would no longer be a one-way-in-one-way-out traffic model. One would hope they don't share IP addresses between the lan and Edison. And even worse, what if there is more than one corporation on the same Edison AC network whom also wants to implement their own AC backbone?

    I suspect Edison will require that their network have exclusive usage of the traffic traveling over your AC if you want to be a customer. I also suspect that corporate users will be sharing their AC connection amongst other Edison corporate clients.

  • It is putting cable in the same conduit (or pipe to the electrically challenged). Yeah, it was mentioned before, but I think people are misunderstanding the article.

    Ya know, I seem to remember the Telegraph companies did somethin' along these lines with the railroads (not with conduit, however). Western Union at one point had 80% of the telegraph business and said that it's near monopolistic trade was in everyone's best interest because it was consistent. Hmmm, wonder where I've heard that before.

    Will Con Ed learn from history?
  • Amoung other things, I work in construction and help architects and contractators design networks in new facilities. I am not an electrictian, but it's always been a cardinal no-no to run CAT-5 (or just about anything) in the same conduit as high power lines. This has been done in a few cases, and the interference from the power cables (regardless of sheilding) results in a noticable packet loss.

    The article is a little vauge as to what kind of cables they want to lay, and what sort of pre-existing conduit they are using (there is multi-channel conduit which should work fine). It almost alludes to simply trenching along the same right-of-ways as existing conduit and laying new pipe.

    But on the surface, the implication is that they will be pulling cable sitting alongside high power lines, which will probably give them some unhappy customers.
  • About whether they're going to use the actual power lines, or send data cables alongside the lines in the same conduit. Either way, I'm expecting loads of transmission errors.

    If they use the power lines for data, theres something about running data down an unshielded line along with 120/240/480/7,200/110,000 volts of electricity that just shouts "High Error Rate".

    If they run a data cable alongside a high voltage line, the energy field emitted by the power line will most likely corrupt data traveling down the adjacent data cable.

  • I believe that everyone here is misunderstanding the article. I don't believe that the author is referring to running networks signals directly over the actual CONDUIT, rather than the POWER wires.

    I posted a reply earlier in this thread stating the reasons:

    1. The NEC (National Electrical Code) specifically states that all power conductor carrying conduits must be grounded in case of a short circuit. So essentially even if they tried to send a signal through the "conduit" it would go directly to earth (even if they tried to use pipes, etc - almost every installation is grounded).

    2. Even if the installation they were using WASN'T grounded, the NEC wouldn't allow for this - there is the possibility of people being electrocuted. Secondly, the connection joints between fittings (such as conduit and pipe), aren't the greatest. They usually have reduced conductivity due to some sort of lubricating grease between them.

    I believe that they are talking about running the signals through the power lines (which is what the railroads, and power industry have been doing for a long time already). All you do is modulate a signal at a different carrier frequency than 60Hz. The arguements that people have been using that the "lights flash and disrupt radio signals, blah blah blah" would be irrelavant in this situation since the "runs" are underground already - and shieleded by a LOT of "earth."

No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.