What is prEN50561-1:2012?
PLT manufacturers have been unable to pass the limits of EN55022, so instead of ensuring their ITE products comply (as all other manufacturers do), they have embarked on a strategy of dis-information. They have claimed their products have no applicable [EMC] standard to be tested against, that the PLT signal stops at the fuse-box/electricity meter, and it is not the PLT device creating the interference, it is the mains wiring. They are also responsible for coining the term "hobby radio user" to dismiss anyone who wants to use something as "quaint" as a radio (that is a large percentage of the world's population!).
They have been lobbying the EU Commission to force the creation of a new EMC testing standard - just for them! The process to create this new standard has bounced around numerous standards-setting bodies, with none of them wanting to touch such a nasty mess. After a great deal of lobbying, the EU commission have forced the issue by ordering CENELEC to come up with a workable standard.
In 2011 a PLT EMC standard known as prEN50561‐1 was proposed by CENELEC and submitted to the vote of National Standards Committees. Ten out of the thirty-one National Standards Committees voted in favour of the draft. This caused the vote to fail under CELENEC’s weighted voting arrangements.
Many National Standards Committees made comments to help improve the draft and some comments questioned the very high radio pollution levels that would be permitted from PLT devices. Other comments would have helped to improve the test methodology. Usually in these situations the CENELEC committee preparing the proposed standard would take note and make changes that reflect the comments with the aim of achieving full consensus of all stakeholders.
A revised version of the PLT standard is about to be circulated, to be voted on (Nov. 2012) by the NCs. Despite a considerable number of comments received following the first vote, the new version of the draft standard contains few material changes. The CENELEC Working Group 11 (WG11) that wrote the proposed standard includes a large number of people who have a direct relationship with PLT interests. It is likely that PLT manufacturers have been lobbying to gain support for the standard, as it would provide a legal basis for high PLT emission levels.
This comes as no surprise when the Working Group is primarily made up of members of the PLT industry, as German radio amateur, Karl Fischer DJ5IL, found out in his own investigation into the CISPR project team.
As we have seen in the press, the chair of the EU committee on powerline networking has responded to the Radio Society of Great Britain's call to arms, claiming that every minute of filibustering pollutes the radio spectrum more. Read the full story on The Register.
The EU Commission’s EMC adviser, who is responsible for ensuring that all EU EMC standards comply with the EMC Directive, has stated that the proposed PLT standard does not meet the Essential Requirements of the EMC Directive and has notified CENELEC. However, CENELEC has decided to ignore the advice of the EU EMC adviser and continue with putting the proposed PLT standard out for voting by the NCs. Should prEN50561‐1 be supported by the National Committees, it risks manufacturers of virtually any new device or product wanting to use the very high radio pollution levels allowed by prEN50561‐1, claiming it as a precedent. An example case would be the inverters used to connect solar cells to the mains-grid where a proposed standard could allow emission levels similar to PLT but at all frequencies with no notches (a "notch" is a range of frequencies where the transmit power of the PLT device is reduced). Other products that could take advantage of this precedent include LED lighting.
In effect, the proposed PLT standard appears in direct contravention of the EMC Directive. It is not just HF but higher radio frequencies that are at risk from what will be legally sanctioned pollution. Wireline services could also become victims, with new high speed DSL technologies such as G.fast facing issues due to PLT emissions being coupled from power cables to phone cables.
How will I be affected?
There is a great deal of dis-information being spread by PLT lobbyists. Some of the statements that have been made are clarified below:
PLT claim: Notching will protect the Amateur radio frequency bands.
Reality: The depth of the notch will depend on how linear the power network is. Resonances in cabling resulting in high voltage levels of PLT signals combined with non-linear components in devices such as switched-mode power-supplies, can lead to the notches "filling in" with hash noise which is difficult to identify as PLT.
PLT claim: Ratification of EN50561‐1 will protect the Amateur radio frequency bands.
Reality: In the same way that PLT manufacturers now flout EN55022 they will be able to flout EN50561‐1. It is just that the motivation will be less ‐ at least until the next scheme for increasing data rate comes along. The only aspects of the new Standard that can be verified in the field by National Enforcement Agencies (such as Ofcom in the UK) are the maximum transmit level and the positions of the Notching Band edges. Within the new Standard the maximum transmit level is set at a higher level than today's typical PLT transmit power levels, and the notched frequencies follow today's practice as set by long‐standing commercial considerations.
PLT claim: EN50561‐1 will control PLT emissions, as there is currently no PLT standard.
PLT claim: PLT cannot work at EN55022 levels.
Reality: PLT devices can work at EN55022 levels in most situations. Running at high power ensures PLT works in the remaining 1% of "difficult" situations. Mesh networking can address almost all of these difficult situations. High levels of pollution could result in "spectrum cleansing" where other spectrum users abandon spectrum to PLT due to PLT pollution. See page 23 of the Compliance Club's Greedy PLT book
PLT claim: Dynamic notching will protect the Shortwave broadcast bands.
Reality: PLT manufacturers committed to PA Consulting to introduce dynamic notching in Quarter 3 of 2010. PA Consulting was researching PLT on behalf of Ofcom (the UK regulator). This failure to demonstrate dynamic notching in production units could mean that it does not actually work in the real world. This may be confirmed by the fact that there is no requirement in prEN50561‐1 that dynamic notching work in the presence of any interference (PLT for example). See Pages 22 and 23 of PA Consulting's PLT report
PLT claim: Power control will reduce PLT pollution levels.
Reality: PLT manufacturers committed to PA Consulting to introduce power control in Quarter 2 of 2010. PA Consulting was researching PLT on behalf of Ofcom (the UK Comms regulator). This function has yet to be seen generally in production devices. PA consulting based its conclusions and recommendations on this commitment and the failure to deliver on this commitment makes a significant difference in the report’s conclusions. Page 57 The power control requirement in EN50561‐1 is specified using an unrealistic test situation. PLT report
When will it come into effect?
On the 5th November 2012, CENELEC's Working Group 11 took a second vote on the draft "standard" EN50561-1:2012 Power Line Communication apparatus used in low-voltage installations. The "standard" was passed to be implemented by all European countries after the EU national standards organizations voted 19 for, 5 against with 9 abstentions; according to the weighted voting system used, this is recorded as 90% in favour of the standard, exceeding the 71% needed for adoption.
It is not yet clear whether the standard will be published in the Official Journal of the EU. Only then will it be clear whether the standard brings with it a "presumption of conformity" with the EMC Directive's 'essential requirements'. The EU and CENELEC’s own EMC consultant has stated, that it in his view, it is in contravention to the 'essential requirements' of the EMC Directive.
HD-PLC Alliance, an organization comprised of voluntary groups dedicated to promoting the use of fast power line communication (PLC) technology worldwide, has announced that the company’s IEEE 1901 HD-PLC chipsets have been certified as compliant with the new CENELEC EN50561-1 electromagnetic compatibility standard. Quite a statment when the "standard" has yet to be officially published. It should be noted that compliance with prEN50561-1 or EN55022 is not mandatory and manufacturers will continue to claim "compliance" to the 'essential requirements' via the abused Technical Contruction File (TCF) route (see our EN55022 page for more information) as they did with the discredited Committee Drafts (see our Truth & Lies page).
Of course, one glaring hole in the PLT lobby's plans is being missed. If other manufacturers choose to start using the new PLT "standard" and allow their products to produce more mains-bourne noise, PLT will find it harder to operate. We have already heard of numerous cases where end-users have found a noisy switched-mode power-supply, noisy compact flourescent lamp, and/or a noisy motor in a hairdyer/washing machine has knocked out their PLT devices.
Karl Fischer, DJ5IL, has been busy investigating the EU's hand in trying to force PLT "standards" on to an un-suspecting public. In his two latest reports, he highlights The Trojan Horse of the PLC-Lobby: FprEN50561-1 and why FprEN50561-1 is Doomed to Fail His reports highlight the lengths manufacturers will go to in order to push their own agenda, and how Eurocrats are more than happy to assist them!
Page updated: 14th June 2013
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Guest author DJ5IL: The Trojan Horse of the PLC-Lobby: FprEN50561-1 | Doomed to Fail: FprEN50561-1