Discussion Papers

Peter Stamm

Entwicklungsstand und Perspektiven von Powerline Kommunikation
Nr. 201 / Februar 2000


No network is as ubiquitous as the power supply network – not only in Germany but world-wide. Therefore it is a fascinating idea to transmit broadband telecommunication signals over the existing electricity power lines. In the last few years a lot of research has been done to realize this idea. This research has mainly been driven by cost savings through avoiding new telecommunication wires to be put down within buildings and on the local loop. Therefore, Power Line Communication (PLC) has the potential to enforce the competition on the local loop level.

In demonstration systems and pilot projects, the technical feasibility of PLC has already been proved. Now it’s crucial to develop systems at competitive costs. This seems to be possible because of the latest progress in processor technology. Increased efforts are being made - mainly in Germany and Switzerland - to solve those technical and regulatory problems which still exist. The major problems concern the electromagnetic interference radiated and received by the power lines, which can lead to mutual interference between PLC and radio services. The German legislator has taken a leading position in Europe to regulate this conflict of interests. Limits for the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) were fixed. The suitability of those limits has to be proved in the forthcoming field tests. Frequency and interference regulation should be seen as a continuous process which will increasingly involve international standardisation aspects.

If the technology suppliers succeed in developing PLC systems which keep to cost benchmarks and EMC limits and simultaneously perform high bit rates, this will open them up a huge world-wide sales market. The power supply industry has the biggest incentives to invest in PLC systems. A success of this technology would mean a huge upward revaluation of their low voltage networks. PLC offers a unique platform, not only for telecommunication services, but also for innovative energy-related services and applications. The power supply industry will be able to create additional operating areas which are close to their core businesses. Potential target groups for the PLC service bundle consisting of telephone, internet and energy-related services are mainly private households with higher needs, teleworkers, self-employed persons in creative branches as well as small and medium sized enterprises. According to the locations of these users, investments in PLC systems are expected primarily within urban residential areas and suburbs.

PLC’s overall chances of becoming an economical success appear to be quite good. But this potential is seen only for a limited period of time due to the extension of the telecommunications infrastructure with competing technologies (e.g. xDSL, CATV, WLL, UMTS and Satellite). Within this period the players involved will have to act purposeful to seize their opportunities.

Only German language version available.

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