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Re: UTC nastygram on BPL

I apologize for the length of this post (or as some may see it - a 
rant.)  BPL is a complex technical, political and corporate issue.  So I 
felt it important to speak about the entire issue, not small parts of it.

Please don't take any of my comments as being in favour of BPL because I'm 
not. There are many problems with BPL, but there are also problems with the 
way the ARRL has approached the BPL problem.  After a long silence on the 
issue and having time to consider it,  I think it's important to voice my 

Where did the ARRL go wrong?

The ARRL seems to have taken an emotional approach to the issue without 
considering technical issues in detail. Although I'm a member and will 
continue to be, I think they dropped the ball and failed to present the 
problem in a way that would encourage all to look at the BPL issue objectively.

OK - If the ARRL is Wrong, is BPL Good?

No. My first objection to BPL is not because it won't interfere with 
current spectrum allocations (it will) but rather that the ARRL decided to 
try to fight it from the "me first" standpoint of protecting spectrum 
rights.  That was doomed from the start because taking the standpoint of 
exclusive spectrum rights has failed, and will continue to fail.

BPL is presumably a spread spectrum technology of which I know much about. 
While I can't divulge why, before I retired from the defense industry, I 
spent a lot of time developing it. I spent many hours in front of spectrum 
analyzers looking at, tweaking it, and analyzing it's characteristics. So I 
am very familiar with the concept and it's implementation. At least from a 
signal characteristics point of view.

Isn't it interference?

While it will certainly raise the noise floor, it doesn't constitute 
"harmful" interference according to current definitions.  Why not? The 
definition of harmful interference is not absolute. It's nebulous, and begs 
the question "how much" - which in this case is not readily quantifiable.

So what to do?

The bigger issue is the fact that an industry that has a track record of 
being extremely irresponsible, as those who live in the Northeast which was 
blacked out, and those of us who live in California who were blackmailed 
know, is now claiming it will be a "responsible corporate citizen" when it 
comes to this technology. And they expect us to trust them to resolve problems?

This certainly taxes credibility. My personal attitude is that power 
companies should deliver power. If and when they have proven they finally 
get that right they can discuss expanding their services, Until that time 
they have no right to promise subscribers more services when they cannot 
deliver their primary service.

The power companies will argue that they have outsourced that to other, 
more technically savvy companies (almost all have - as many of us who have 
cable or DSL know.) However you don't really have any means of looking at 
their track records and the power companies put the "face" on until there 
is a customer service issue,  What do we know of them?   Most are guarded 
in secrecy. The web pages don't load, or provide only marketing information 
with no technical contact information.

Also look at corporate earnings projections for power companies going out 3 
to 5 years, Most have a "royalities" line item, and if you follow the 
detail they are factoring in earnings from BPL that they have yet to earn. 
But they "project" them, and will protect the projections. It's what
marketing people do.

The Noise Thing

But back to technical issues. The ARRL continues to fight on the basis on 
"noise". Rather than insisting on primary allocations and seeking 
authorizations for similar modulation techniques, the ARRL insists this is 
the same as TVI, hast to be "stopped in it's tracks" and that the 
interference battle will will be exasperating. It will, but the ARRL will lose.

Here is why.

Spread spectrum raises the noise floor but not to the extent it will 
violate Part 15 because the amount of power in Part 15 segments is not 
measurable.  Also, threats about amateurs interfering with it are 
groundless.  BPL is immune to narrow band jamming because it uses very 
sophisticated forward error correction. This means, you can crank your 
transmitter up to 1500 watts and it will not interfere with their 
signal.  They are frequency hopping over an 80MHz spectrum and you can only 
hit them at 3KHz at a time.  So the idea that Amateur Radio will interfere 
with a wideband fast frequency hopping (FFH) spread spectrum signal is a 

You can't jam it.  I spent almost 10 years of my career designing 
counter-measures and you can't defeat a FFH signal with with a broad 
jammer. Even if you tried you would fail (so don't try this at 
home.)  First of all you would have to broadcast it's entire spectrum ( you 
can't - that's illegal since it extends beyond the amateur band) and you 
would expend so much power you would blow out all the light bulbs in a 6 
mile radius!  (Just kidding - that's just speculation - but probably 
close.)  So they are quite confident we are the weaklings, and they will 
use that as a converse argument if challenged.

Is there no stopping it?

Possibly.  BPL is being tried in URBAN areas, but they pushed this on the 
public agenda as a plan is to service RURAL subscribers.  What the ARRL 
should have forged is an alliance with the Telcos and cable operators to 
restrict BPL to RURAL areas alone.  If that happened BPL would have died 
because their marketing plan included running services into urban and 
suburban areas with presumably few if any changes in the wiring 
infrastructure.  Look at where the current test sites have been? None have 
been rural - they really have no eyes on the urban customer except for the 
occasional school that they can run in their ads.  If you want to defeat 
them, force them to deliver on their initial promises.

Another way to defeat BPL is to insure they can't undercut the 
competition.  They will probably offer "discounts" lasting 6 to 12 months 
for customers to switch.  Fight that, and convince your neighbors to not 
succumb to flashy marketing.  It is how they target converts, and once they 
get a foothold will try to leverage their presumed strength.

And the first step is to make sure it doesn't come into your neighborhood. 
Make sure you educate your neighbors about BPL and the hollow promises.

So is there an answer?

There isn't an easy one.  Exposing an industry that has the facts on their 
side is hard.  You can start by taking definitive measurements of the noise 
floor in your neighborhood today with a good spectrum analyzer or a wide 
band receiver.  The ICOM PCR-1000 coupled with the TALK_PCR software and a 
laptop that can take screen shots  is a good start that you can install in 
a car or truck to take measurements.  (I am not making an endorsement here 
- it's just what I use.)  Many surplus spectrum analyzers will do a good 
job too.  Have a good scientific method for measuring the noise floor and 
have the method documented and witnessed by another ham (preferably an 
Extra class - it will hold the most credibility.) This way if BPL is 
introduced into your neighborhood you can document the change in the noise 
floor.  Without this information it's just speculation.

Secondarily, if you are in good standing with your neighbors, convince them 
to shun BPL and get DSL or cable.  The power company won't bring BPL into a 
neighborhood if no one wants it. Make it uneconomic (and even hostile) for 
for them to come in.  Oppose any tax incentives they may get for doing 
so.  Go to school board meetings and make sure they aren't seduced by 
cheaper rates that will soon disappear.

Lastly, realize that the future of ham radio may lie elsewhere. This could 
be a wakeup call to find other technologies. Look for them - they may hold 
the answers. The current spectrum is ours, but we have to use it efficiently.

In conclusion

Don't expect a quick fix. It isn't going to happen.  Don't lose your 
license trying to "jam" it. It won't work and it will only get you in 
trouble. Do be active and proactive,  Document and report,  If they know we 
are watching with state of the art "non-tube" technology, it will make them 
think twice and be afraid,  They are not prepared for a war beyond 
words/  Spending money to defend technical lawsuits it the one thing that 
will strike fear into their hearts and make them think again.

My 2 cents, and 73,


At 08:44 PM 6/24/2004 -0700, Bryant Winchell wrote:
>Your remark piqued my interest so I dug a bit into the messages.  The
>following paragraph kind of shows what we're up against.  I'm including it
>to the bb for the benefit of others like me who haven't [hadn't] clicked on
>the URL.
>Thanks for the motivation!
>Bryant, W2RGG
>"UPLC also commented on amateur radio opposition to the technology, urging
>the Commission to ignore "armchair amateurs that still use vacuum tube
>transmitters" and listen to the reputable companies and entrepreneurs who
>are the real experts on BPL and who have overcome enormous technical
>obstacles to make BPL a reality in the U.S. All the field trials over the
>years in various parts of the country have shown that the risk of
>interference from BPL is extraordinarily low, because it produces only
>minimal radio frequency energy at a few points in the system. Moreover,
>these systems will incorporate adaptive interference mitigation capabilities
>that will effectively remedy any interference that might result to fixed and
>mobile operations in the High Frequency (HF) band (1.7-80 MHz)."
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Gunther Meisse" <gmouse@neo.rr.com>
>To: "'Arthur H Feller'" <afeller@ieee.org>
>Cc: <amsat-bb@AMSAT.Org>
>Sent: Thursday, June 24, 2004 7:21 PM
>Subject: RE: [amsat-bb] UTC nastygram on BPL
> > I don't think they like us!!!!
> > Regards,
> > Gunther Meisse
> > W8GSM
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: owner-AMSAT-BB@AMSAT.Org [mailto:owner-AMSAT-BB@AMSAT.Org] On Behalf
> > Of Arthur H Feller
> > Sent: Thursday, June 24, 2004 8:35 PM
> > To: amsat-bb
> > Subject: [amsat-bb] UTC nastygram on BPL
> >
> >
> > rowser
> >
> >
> > ----
> > Sent via amsat-bb@amsat.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
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> >
> > ----
> > Sent via amsat-bb@amsat.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
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> >
>Sent via amsat-bb@amsat.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
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W0EEC - CM87tm
AMSAT Area Coordinator - San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.projectoscar.net    http://www.PlanetEmily.com 

Help Launch Echo - http://www.amsat.org/amsat/sats/echo/index.html

Sent via amsat-bb@amsat.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
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