Single modem for all narrowband powerline comms standards

June 15, 2015 // By Graham Prophet
Maxim Integrated’s ultra-low-power PLC modem reduces footprint by up to 3x and improves time to market; it handles all current utilities’ standards and is ready for future standards.

Designers of electrical utility meters have the flexibility to accommodate the G3-PLC, Prime, and P1901.2 standards in the CENELEC A, ARIB, and FCC frequency bands with a single chip, the ZENO/MAX79356 powerline communications (PLC) modem system on a chip.

Powerline communication standards and frequency bands vary by region and country, and until now (says Maxim) PLC modems could not support them all. Meter manufacturers had to develop multiple modems to ensure standards compatibility, or even pass up markets because they did not have the time or resources to develop new modems. The ZENO/MAX79356 PLC modem SoC is software configurable to accommodate all worldwide standards. Now manufacturers and utilities can use the same device to build meters and data concentrators for any region that wants to use powerline communication. This allows meter designers to bring their products to market faster and be prepared for future standards. Integration of the analogue front-end (AFE) and baseband in a single chip reduces chip count and lowers expenses.

Key attributes include:

  1. Versatile: software configurability supports today’s PLC standards and will adjust for future standards; certified by the G3-PLC Alliance for all three major frequency bands (CENELEC A, ARIB, and FCC) and for PAN Device and PAN Coordinator
  2. Low power: uses 80% less power when listening for PLC communication (55mW vs. 300mW); active transmission power consumption is 70mW
  3. Space efficient: up to 3x smaller than other PLC modems

“While we expect narrowband PLC to stand out as a fast-growing communications technology over the next few years, we don’t see consolidation of the standards and frequency bands requested by utilities,” said Jacob Rodrigues Pereira, Senior Analyst, Smart Utility Infrastructure at IHS. “Solutions like the MAX79356 will make it easier for meter manufacturers to support multiple markets without increasing their development costs.”