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Partners release OFDM-based PLC spec

Posted: 04 Sep 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smart grid? powerline communication? PLC spec?

Maxim Integrated Products Inc., in partnership with Sagem Communications and Electricite Reseau Distribution France (ERDF), has released an OFDM-based powerline communication (PLC) specification designed to facilitate global smart grid implementations. The specification supports the IPv6 Internet Protocol standard to promote interoperability among global smart grid implementations.

Last year, Maxim was awarded a key development contract by ERDF, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Electricite de France Group, to define, develop, and implement a next-generation PLC specification (G3-PLC) for automatic meter management (AMM) infrastructure. ERDF has since evaluated the G3-PLC technology against competing technologies under real-world conditions and scenarios. These tests included long-distance communication over medium-voltage lines, two-way communication across medium-to-low-voltage transformers, coexistence with older FSK deployments, smart network routing/commissioning capability (mesh network), and many others. Through these advanced field trials, ERDF concluded that Maxim's PLC technology offers the most robust data communication over the PLC network compared to others.

"ERDF selected Maxim for this project because of their proven expertise in developing advanced PLC solutions and their experience in this field," commented Jean Vigneron, managing director for metering at ERDF. "Along with Sagem Communications, Maxim successfully delivered a PLC specification that fully met our requirements for robust communication, high data rates, long-distance transmission, and interoperability."

ERDF is preparing to conduct an industrial pilot program in the rural area around Tours. Using G3-PLC technology, ERDF will deploy an AMM infrastructure to enhance grid operations and promote energy conservation. Upon the successful completion of these trials, ERDF's goal is to implement an AMM network across France to serve its +35M customers.

'Energy Internet'
Frequently described as the "energy Internet," the smart grid represents the convergence of information technologies with energy infrastructure in a decentralized network architecture. Yet, unlike the Internet, today's electricity infrastructure is highly parochial, governed by the disparate needs of each municipality, region, or nation.

One of the biggest challenges acing implementers is how to ensure interoperability and open-endedness among smart grids across traditional service areas and borders. Interoperability will enable the interconnection of more elements across larger grids to realize a true energy internet. Additionally, it will allow more vendors to compete in the market, thus accelerating innovation and reducing costs.

The G3-PLC specification supports the IPv6 IP. Both globally accepted and license-free, IPv6 enables an open standard available to all implementers.

The G3-PLC specification includes OFDM-based PHY/MAC layers and a 6LoWPAN adaptation layer to transmit IPv6 packets over powerline channels. The specification also includes innovations such as coexistence with older S-FSK systems, adaptive tone mapping for optimal bandwidth utilization, and a robust mode of operation that improves communication under noisy channel conditions. These capabilities allow implementers to achieve fast, reliable data communication over the long distances required by large-scale smart grid infrastructures.

"Maxim's open-standard approach and global support enable hardware and service providers worldwide to seamlessly adapt and implement this next-generation PLC technology platform," commented Michael Navid, general manager for powerline products at Maxim.

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