PowerWAN PLC to Solve Last-Mile

A new Power Line Carrier (PLC) / Power Line Telecommunications (PLT) network technology is under development by a startup company called PowerWAN, which plans a complete solution to the last mile problem.

PowerWAN’s coding and modulation technology is their own proprietary approach to OFDM, especially suited to the reflective and noisy power line environment, and the particular characteristics are designed to minimize the effects of narrow band interference, impulse noise and multipath reflections. Company personnel have deep experience in OFDM, having successfully developed an OFDM based system for cable television voice applications. They are very aware of the whole landscape of past and present contenders to make PLC a reality, and are confident in their approach.

PowerWAN is a member of the HomePlug Alliance. They are already routinely seeing data rates over 6 MB, and are confident of reaching 10, at distances up to 0.5 miles. Product plans include increasing the data rates to 30 MB in the near term.

In tests at the distribution training yard at Sierra Pacific Power, they recently proved their capability to pass data through two low voltage (LV) distribution transformers without the use of any bypass technology. This is important to the network provider since it greatly reduces the cost of labor and maintains safety and simplicity. To date PowerWAN has exhaustively tested and verified the technical viability of both the Medium Voltage and Low Voltage areas of the power grid to support high bandwidth transmission of data.

Five patent applications have been submitted for both the technology and architectures used within PLC., with several more to follow for PLC technology. Also in the process are several other patents relating to proprietary uses of the technology and the controlling of Ethernet network elements.

Financial models indicate that with all network elements, including the cost to build a fiber backbone, the system will be competitive with DSL and Cable at less than $200 per home passed, and will meet or exceed the features and functionality they currently provide. Additionally, regulated applications such as AMR and distribution automation can also be facilitated within the PowerWAN solution since the installed network is a broadband two-way communications network reaching every facility within the service area.

The Hybrid Fiber Power Line Carrier (HFPLC) architecture includes four main elements:

1. The Power Line Modem Termination System (PMTS) provides the platform for system management and control for high-speed optical streams. It is a redundant Carrier Class product architecture, which provides the connection and control to the backbone network. It is located at the substation or Headend and interfaces the network with optical interfaces. A Mini PMTS will also allow the network provider to connect business users directly with Ethernet based services that can be scaled from small (1Mb ) to large (100 Mb).

2. The Mini-PMTS is an environmentally hardened, line mounted layer 2 switch with Layer 3 functionality and protocol support. The Mini-PMTS is provides traffic policy control of the data streams for each of the power Line Nodes and customer premise units controlled by each individual Mini-PMTS. Through the use of proprietary software control and monitoring developed by PowerWAN, the Mini-PMTS will allow the network provider to offer various levels of service and data rates to each individual customer premise device. Additionally, the Mini-PMTS will ensure a high degree of security is maintained for all users of the network. A proprietary use of VLAN (Virtual LAN) tags will ensure any and all services can be delivered

3. The PLC Node converts the optical signals from the network to the PLC/PLT signals needed for transmission over the power line for both high and low speed applications. The PLC Node would physically reside at the best strategic location for insertion of the signal to the power network and may be added as needed to segment the system. Possible locations are: the substation end of the distribution feeders; downstream of the local transformer; or any split point of the electrical feeder distribution network

4. The Customer Premises Device can be either an externally mounted “gateway” or a modem that plugs into any wall outlet. This is a key differentiator–PowerWAN sees no need to separate “to” the house from “in” the house. Both can be done in the same system.

Contact Al Johnson, COO
ajohnson@powerwan.com 650-833-5790 x145