What is an in-home power line communications device?
An in-home power line communications (PLC) device is a device that plugs into an electrical mains power-point to allow broadband (internet) data to then be sent along a home or building’s existing electrical mains wiring to another power-point where it can be accessed by another user. The PLC device, in effect, allows end-users to use their home or businesses electrical wiring as data cabling.
PLC is also known as broadband over power line (BPL) or power line telecommunications (PLT).
A minimum of two PLC devices is required for the system to work. A computer, modem, pay-tv receiver or other communications device is typically connected to one PLC device and its data can be sent to another PLC device, shared with another user or device at a different location within the same building. Figure 1 shows how PLC devices might be used in a premises.
Figure 1: Power Line Communications Diagram
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Why use in-home PLC technology?
In-home PLC is often marketed as a viable alternative to other methods of distributing broadband signals within a home such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi. The ability to use existing electrical mains wiring may be more cost effective than having to install dedicated data cabling. In addition, in-home PLC can also be used to overcome instances where Wi-Fi reception is problematic.
What to be aware of when using an in-home PLC device
Is my device compliant?
In-home PLC devices are required to meet certain technical requirements to reduce the risk of them causing interference to radio and other communications services. The ACMA’s regulatory arrangements require suppliers of PLC devices to ensure that their devices comply with certain technical standards and requirements before being allowed to offer them for sale in Australia. In-home PLC devices are also subject to State and Territory electrical safety requirements.
When purchasing an in-home PLC device, consumers should look to ensure that the device have been labelled with the Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM). The RCM label (Figure 2) is an indication by the supplier that the device has met all ACMA regulatory requirements as well as electrical safety requirements.
Figure 2: The RCM label
Interference to VDSL2 and G.Fast services
VDSL2 is currently being used in Australia by NBN Co and a number of other carriers as part of the deployment of next-generation broadband networks. In addition, G.Fast, a successor technology to VDSL2 is expected to be deployed within the next 2–3 years.
In-home PLC devices operate in frequency bands shared by these technologies and therefore there is a possibility that a PLC device may interfere with and adversely affect, VDSL2 and G.Fast services. Interference to VDSL2 and G.Fast services may cause those services to operate at a reduced data rate and/or connections to drop out.
If you’re unsure whether a PLC device is compatible with your broadband service, you should contact your broadband service provider or the manufacturer of the device.
You should also contact your service provider or the manufacturer for advice if you have a PLC device and suspect that it may be affecting your broadband service.