Needless to say that low voltage powerlines, unlike fiber-optics or other types of wired communication solutions, are quite a harsh communication network, where different CE non compliant equipment creates disturbances and thus prevents reliable communication. The sources of noise range from powerful equipment such as water pumps to LED light bulbs, power adapters and dimmers and emit disturbances in both CENELEC A and FCC frequency bands.
More recently utilities and vendors have started using 3rd generation PLC communications, like PRIME and G3-PLC, and those definitely possess mechanisms and features superseding FSK and S-FSK by a seriously larger range of frequency carriers in different bands, as well as much higher communication speed that might help transfer all data collected for one or few days during just one small time slot of clean network. However, noise continues to represent a big challenge to companies that have chosen PLC as their main communication carrier.
This challenge is certainly solvable, however it requires substantial clean-up effort and respective costs allocation to
- Field works (labour cost) to detect and remove sources of noise
- Filters in average 0,5 to 1% from the quantity of meters
- Extra repeaters in average 0,5 to 1% from the quantity of meters
Based on our own examples, as well as on similar experience from other large utilities in France, Austria, Spain and other EU countries, at the stage of project deployment around 90-95% of meters are registered and start communicating immediately.
The more one tends to increase the KPI close to 100% registration and data collection rate, the higher the effort and cost for clean-up. Some utilities have dedicated internal teams for this job, some outsource to the companies with experience in this domain. There are even cases when the KPI is the responsibility of the bidder, where he needs to perform a clean-up in order to keep the KPI at the requested level for the contract duration and includes in its offer such labor and equipment costs.
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It is also worth mentioning that due to the dynamic nature of noises (appearance of new consumers and new CE non-compliant equipment) the necessity for periodic clean-up might be present for the whole duration of the project.
With the appearance of Hybrid G3-PLC the clean-up effort has been substantially decreased due to a back-up RF channel and the ability of each communication node in the network to switch from PLC and RF and vice versa depending on the communication success rate over one or the other channel.
On a medium-scale deployment in Russia with more than 30,000 meters installed statistics shows that a minimum 98% of meters are being registered immediately and communicate on a permanent basis, while only 2% are left for clean-up.
The examples from the pilot projects with Hybrid G3-PLC deployed by ADD GRUP in Palestine and Jordan show even better results: 100% communication success without any clean-up effort. This is the true plug-and-play concept.
On large scale deployments such effortless KPI levels can save millions of Euro investments for clean-up to utility companies. Considering backward compatibility of hybrid with pure G3-PLC, such can be efficiently used for enlargement or maintenance of existing projects.