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Modem chip from Maxim supports all three powerline communications standards

Steve Rogerson
June 17, 2015
A modem that supports all narrowband powerline communications (PLC) utility standards has been introduced by California company Maxim Integrated. The power PLC modem gives designers of electrical utility meters 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.
Powerline communication standards and frequency bands vary by region and country, and until now 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 system on a chip solves the problem by being 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.
In addition, the integration of the analogue front-end and baseband in a single chip reduces chip count and lowers expenses.
“Maxim is leveraging its G3-PLC leadership to become a reference for all standards around the world,” said Kris Ardis, executive director at Maxim Integrated. “We listened to our customers and have solved their current and long-term PLC concerns with Zeno.”
Software configurability supports today’s PLC standards and will adjust for future standards; it is certified by the G3-PLC Alliance for all three major frequency bands – Cenelec A, ARIB and FCC – and for Pan device and coordinator. It uses 80 per cent less power when listening for PLC communications (55mW versus 300mW); active transmission power consumption is 70mW.
“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 at IHS. “Solutions like the MAX79356 will make it easier for meter manufacturers to support multiple markets without increasing their development costs.”