Power line communication or PLC is a technology that enables sending of communication data over electric power cables. The advantages of using such a technology are numerous including a low cost of installation and maintenance, more penetration as the only infrastructure needed is power lines, ease of use and installation, reduced wiring complexity, and so on.
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Narrowband PLC can be defined as communication transmission over power line in the frequency range of 0-500 KHz. For Narrowband, the bit rate is usually <1 Mbps (Mega bits per second). The market for narrowband PLC is huge as it is the most sought-after technology for implementing communication networks in smart grids. This is seen especially in the smart metering application segment.
Off late, due to the regulatory push by the European Union’s Third Energy Market Package, many member countries are required to adopt a smart metering approach by 2020. The regulations state that by 2020, 80% of all meters in Europe, including electricity, gas and water meters, need to be smart meters which will enable more efficient energy management. This has given new buzz to PLC, which is at the forefront of the battle of the communication networking technologies to be used in smart grids. The main driving factor for PLC is the fact that it requires very little external infrastructure, which makes it the most cost-effective solution.
The idea of using Power Line Communication Market in the smart grid for two way communications over power lines is fairly new and kicked off only in the last decade. Thus, there still remain some questions about the reliability of PLC technology for the various applications it is currently being used in. Undoubtedly, the growth in the smart grid market will push the market for PLC forward in the next five years. This can be seen from the figure below, which shows the penetration of PLC in the major application markets for 2012 and 2018.
The figure above shows the penetration of PLC into various applications sectors. The penetration of PLC in this section refers to the percentage of PLC revenue of a particular application out of the Total Available Market (TAM) for wired communications in that application. The figure shows the current penetration (2012) of PLC and the penetration five years down the line (2018). From the figure, it is clear that the smart grid application will drive the PLC market in the next five years with its penetration almost doubling (44% to 75.6%). Indoor networking penetration is expected to increase from 9% in 2012 to 17.4% in 2018. This is due to the fact that Broadband PLC devices’ ASPs (average selling price) are to decrease over the next five years drastically and thus sales are expected to grow. This will also affect the M2M market whose PLC penetration is expected to grow from 1% in 2012 to 9% in 2018.
Thus,the overall market for PLC is expected to grow rapidly from 2013 to 2018, but the major force behind this growth will be smart grid applications. Some of the major applications for narrowband PLC in smart grids include Automated Meter Reading (AMR), lighting control, electric vehiclecharging, etc. These are the applications that require a low data transfer rate since they are mostly related to monitoring and control that does not require much information exchange. Thus, it is expected that PLC will play a big role in the smart grid communications market and pose a serious threat to the other wired and wireless substitutes like ZigBee, Z-wave, and so on.
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