Analog front end improves reliability of power line communication for smart grids

February 18, 2013 // By Paul Buckley
AnSem NV, Europe's leading analog ASIC design service company, has released a flexible and low power Analog Front End (AFE) for power line communication (PLC) in the lower frequency bands.

The ANS6201 is a single chip Analog Front End built in 0.18 µm TSMC technology that integrates all main blocks, including filters, for a narrowband OFDM PLC transceiver. This integration, together with the single power supply of 3.3 V, reduces the Bill of Materials for a complete power line communication system.

Power line communication is a cornerstone technology for the emerging market of smart grids and smart energy homes.  The increasing amount of data to be transmitted between the energy consumers and producers to optimally manage the energy system requires a high speed, low cost, reliable and secure communication network.

Stefan Gogaert, Chief Strategic Officer of AnSem added: "The main advantage of this analog frond end is its flexibility. With a software defined approach, the settings of the AFE can be changed for optimal functioning in different frequency bands (10-500 kHz), under different protocols (ITU G.9955, G3, Prime, …), under variable power line conditions. The ANS6201 can therefore be used in a wide range of today's applications, but is also future proof for changes in the protocols."

With a 2 Msps 12 bit ADC and a low noise PGA integrated on silicon, the signal sensitivity of this chip is outstanding.  Signals down to 11 µVrms can be received under the disturbing conditions of the power line in the CENELEC A-band.  With the OFDM modulation, this high sensitivity increases the reliability of the communication, resulting in higher data speed and or longer communication distances.

The transmit path is composed of a 2 Msps 12 bit DAC, a 5th order filter and a PPA able to generate OFDM signals with an amplitude of up to 6 Vptp compliant with the EN-50065 and FCC-regulation.

The Analog Front End is controlled by a digital modem through a conventional SPI-interface.  This interface can also be used to transmit and receive data between the AFE and the modem.  This makes integration with the modem easy and