back to article EU standardises hamtagonistic powerline network tech

The second vote on EN50561-1, the EU standard for running Ethernet over mains circuits, has passed, putting the standard on the books, much to the annoyance of the UK amateur radio operator community. EN50561-1 requires that all Powerline Telecommunication (PLT) kit, which carries networking signals over the mains electrical …

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Anonymous Coward

Not just the "UK amateur radio operator"

The German and Irish societies objected as well, and even the consultant employed by the defining EU standards body said that the standard was inappropriate, they ignored him.

It isn't just radio amateurs that are upset, the standard as proposed actually violates other existing EU standards on interference, which suggests that commercial interests are being allowed to override EU law. Nothing new there, of course.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not just the "UK amateur radio operator"

"which suggests that commercial interests are being allowed to override EU law. "

I'm not sure this is about commercial interests, because the market isn't obvious yet, and the companies with current products largely aren't sufficiently big or if big, sufficiently committed to PLN to have EU level clout. But I think the pols believe that powerline networking is an essential part of the smart house of the future, which will magically deliver the EU's climate-tastic goal of zero emissions.

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Silver badge
FAIL

much to the annoyance of the UK amateur?

They are trying to help EVERYONE using radio from 1MHz to 200MHz.

This technology isn't compatible with any form of radio. It will get worse.

Each generation of Networking over mains uses more Radio spectrum. Amateur Radio will suffer the least. as it implements "notches".

These are really wide band transmitters that happen to plug into the mains and where the wiring assists the signal.

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Anonymous Coward

Ofcom = joke

"no power to govern devices that were not designed to emit radio signals"... So if I leave the door of my microwave oven off, and wipe out wifi for 50 miles (top of a hill), thats ok then? At least not ofcom's.

Makes a mockery of all those mains borne interference specs. Incidentally, a 3G base station is allowed higher emissions levels off the front of the cabinet than out the antenna

port or up the mains.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ofcom = joke

Serbia left the doors off μWave ovens in order to decoy attract NATO ASARMs, allegedly; you might upset more than Wi-Fi users! But I agree that OFCOM wouldn't notice or probably care! Now if only the armed wing of OFCOM could get some AGM-88C whose warhead section contains 12,845 tungsten fragments....

(Yes, I have a beard)

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Thumb Up

However

Overall a good article and highlights the biggest issue in UK and Ireland about Radio Interference in General

1) People don't make an official complaint

2) There is no simple mechanism to make a complaint.

3) Even when the Regulator comes on site and proves the TV, phone charger, CFL lamp or PC PSU is creating 100s of times more interference more than legal limit and completely blocking Radio even 30m away, nothing is done, even if it's just faulty and could be replaced. Perhaps they might talk to maker. They will NOT get involved with Retailer or SOGA. Also the neighbours can't go to small claims court over SOGA. Only the Purchaser

The Regulators in UK & Ireland have forgotten why they were created. NOT to serve narrow commercial interests but ALL consumers of Radio Spectrum.

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe what it will take...

Is heathrow getting blasted off air by someone's ethernet link.

This sort of thing happened before with some cheapo tv amplifiers, not designed to transmit, but screaming away at high level connected to antennas.

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Bronze badge
Stop

Re: Maybe what it will take...

The main hope (well, you get my drift) will be that the notched bands fill up with intermodulation products due to the non-linear nature of many of the mains powered devices these days, and of course the tendency of cheapskate manufacturers to remove the filtering components that got them through the emissions testing that they might have performed before putting stuff on sale.

This would be particularly bad if it interfered with the analogue VHF ILS signals that are still used for landing approaches in much of the world, maybe then Ofcom would have to turn up with the heavy mob and take action.

Remember that many years ago a BA 747 missed a hotel near 27R by about 6-10 feet after an autopilot-coupled ILS approach went wrong, this was due to a sick crew and other factors but in low visibility it could lead to a similar event.

EMC regulation is there for a reason, gerrymandering it in this way is an invitation to disaster.

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FAIL

Not quite a done-deal!

The proposed "standard" (read: pack of lies) prEN5056-1:2012 has only been accepted by CENELEC, which was not a surprise considering the Working Group is made up of pro-PLT companies wanting to further their crap technology. This whole shambles taints anything CENELEC is now involved in!

prEN50561-1:2012 has to be accepted by the European Commission before it can be legally used; not that PLT companies stuck to the rules in the past! Many aspects of prEN50561-1:2012 contravene the 'Essential Requirements' of the Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive 2004/108/EC; something which the EC's own EMC adviser stated, before being completely ignored by CENELEC. The two cannot co-exist, so one of them will have to go. If it is the EMC Directive, you can kiss goodbye to any electronic device ever working correctly again!

prEN50561-1:2012 contains a number of mitigation "technologies", such as 'dynamic notching' and 'dynamic power control' - a tacit admission that PLT creates interference! Neither of these "technologies" exist, other than being mentioned in the "standard". Dynamic notching required the PLT device(s) to listen for other users of the radio spectrum. If all they can hear is other PLT units in the area, they will simply add to the interference. Can you see the irony and madness of that?!

Will it end with prEN5056-1:2012? If this nonsense is not kicked into touch, every manufacturer or trade body that does not want to conform to existing standards will use PLT as an excuse and a reason to demand their own "applicable standard". Everything the EMC Directive has sought to protect will be lost!

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Stop

Re: Not quite a done-deal!

Well at least CISPR gave up trying to obtain agreement, now CENELEC have done the EC and PLC manufacturers' dirty work for them much to their denigration.

Can opposition to the EC acceptance of this standard be mobilised in time, and will it be enough?

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Silver badge

Wow

Luckily, just bought a triplet of Gigabit powerline devices from Solwise for some ridiculously low price. Work great, and they have a firmware available that "avoids producing interference on certain radio frequencies" but I haven't deployed it because they work just fine. Or are we only talking about those PLT that involve sending data over the high-tension lines? I don't think we are, because nobody has those at all yet.

Though I kind of sympathise with the radio hams, the problem has always been there and is always going to be there. I don't believe the devices put out enough that it leaks significantly past my own home, and if it does, it's not *my* problem as a consumer of a (now confirmed) still-legal device. Sure, it's a pain, but failing to kick their own watchdog into touch and letting MILLIONS of such devices out into the wild, it's too late to "solve" that problem, even if all those devices become illegal overnight - it will still take DECADES to get rid of them. How many people are going to download a firmware for a working device and deploy it "just because"? How many are going to replace working kit for no particular reason?

But then, even when I was a kid, you could walk into a pound-store or cheap electrical store and pick up a device that (at the time) illegally transmitted, say, an input TV signal onto the FM range (or some other non-public range) and use it to blat TV around your house. Apparently it wasn't illegal to sell or to buy the devices, only to use them. That's a loophole right there that should have been quashed DECADES ago. And, in the end, what happened was that low-power devices were allowed to transmit all over FM anyway because they were already so prevalent (and hence I can now go and legally buy in-car FM transmitters that screw up EVERYONE'S FM within their range - and it's quite common to be driving along only to have THE most powerful radio station drop out and be replaced by someone's phone call or MP3's streaming in their own car as you drive down the motorway).

When you have an ineffective watchdog that you fail to make responsible for decades, this is what happens. AM is dead, FM will soon be, and it won't be long before other licensed frequencies are also hit. But since when has OfCom or anyone else actually cared about whether any particular individual gets reception or experiences interference? If they did, we probably wouldn't have been able to move to digital TV at all, because a huge percentage of the country just dropped out overnight or now get only half the channels they are supposed to.

Sorry, but you have nobody to blame but yourselves. You should have kicked your watchdog into touch, put in laws about this sort of thing decades ago and made sure they were enforced. Popping up only when they were already millions of problematic devices is pointless. Licensed bands are going the way of the dodo - apart from things like emergency services, aviation, shipping (which are enforced properly) and huge blocks for DVB and DAB. White-space gear will cover everything else and the few licensed bands remaining will be heavily enforced and eventually move to white-space gear that will be more reliable and cheaper by the time it all starts getting cramped.

Meanwhile, my Solwise adaptors are likely to stay in my house (and extras purchased as necessary) until someone with legal authority comes and removes them (which is likely to be never). I can't see that I've done any wrong in that, the devices are 100% legal at the moment and likely to remain so, the manufacturers must have complied with all relevant law to get the certifications necessary to legally sell them, so they aren't the real problem either. Failing to kick the ineffectual watchdog in charge, and the relevant legislations, into touch since at least the 50's / 60's is really the problem, nothing else. And it's now TOO LATE to do that without taking DECADES to clean up the airwaves and serving legal notices on people who bought devices that were entirely legitimate at the time they bought them (and hope they comply voluntarily).

My sympathy is limited. My Ethernet speed over my 1930's internal household wiring is great, though.

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Silver badge

Re: Wow

So, your car goes great without Road Tax and Insurance too.

It's NOT just about Radio Amateurs. But ALL Radio users. Broadcast radio is a unique irreplaceable resource. Satellite and Internet are complementary delivery mechanisms. Not a replacement for Terrestrial Broadcast.

Radio is used by ordinary public, Marine, Aeronautical, Emergency Services, Telemetry and Control of remote equipment by Water, Gas and Electricity Distribution infrastructure. RFID/NFC can also be jammed by PLT. Remote controlled "Toys". CB, Mobile Radio on Trucks, Taxies etc is impacted by the newer high speed units.

Aeronautical and Marine also use HF band as well as the VHF 110 to 137MHz and 156 to 162MHz approx bands. The land based stations will be gradually degraded on HF by ANY PLT ethernet in the Home and VHF links by the higher speed newer units. It's cumulative too as more units are added.

People pay for licences on a Non-Interference Protected Primary basis.

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Silver badge

Re: Wow

Then the people who pay for those licences should have been shouting DECADES ago, and it's entirely their problem to sort out. There is nothing I, as a consumer, can possibly do about perfectly legitimately-sold devices interfering on radio bands - I do not have and can not have an FCC / CE-style analysis of my devices done on a whim and then modify those devices based on their output characteristics.

Those people paying for those licenses should STOP, explain WHY, and/or SUE. Until they do, nothing will change. Until they do, nobody (in general) will know there's a problem. Until they do, people will KEEP BUYING these things totally legally and using them, totally legally.

But if there's NOT a law stopping it, or a guarantee enforcing clear bands, then there is NOTHING that *I* or *THEY* can do about it. The way forward is, was and always has been to get some legislation to stop those devices being sold. They're not doing it, they're not doing it effectively and it's arguable that they *CAN* do it at all now (too damn late for a start!).

This is not a problem I can solve. I can name 20 people with PL kit who rely it on for their home networks (e.g. where wireless won't penetrate). I can't name one that knows it's a problem for radio hams, nor one that would care so long as it was still legal to use/buy the device (and it is!).

This is a problem that licence holders should have analysed, reported, and had action taken back in the 60's or 70's. There's no difference between PL kit and any other in respect to the certifications it passes or anything else, and thus it's always been possible to do this kind of thing.

I have no sympathy for license-holders that pay for exclusive use of a certain band and HAVE NO WAY to enforce that band, and won't stop paying, and won't sue (or were silly enough to take a licence that doesn't give them a way to sue if it's not fulfilled), and won't threaten withdrawal. And, from what I see, it's not actually those licence holders who are most complaining, it's amateurs.

If this is a problem, those people affected need to do something about it.

If this was a big problem, those people would have done that and solved it decades ago.

Meanwhile, every second those devices are on general public availability, it will take longer and be harder to get rid of them (literally on the order of decades).

I can't emphasise it enough - penalising the USERS of those devices is nonsensical. You have to target the manufacturers and those certifying the devices. And there, there's NOTHING I can do to help you, everything should have been done YEARS ago, and you should have moulded a watchdog that works in your interest (I don't think allowing low-level FM transmitters in cars, etc. was in radio hams' interests either, but you let it go through). There is nothing the average consumer can do for you, and they will continue to buy these devices and make the problem worse. Not least, because they work wonderfully well and don't interfere with ANYTHING that I can detect or use in my average day.

Again, if the hams have a problem, they should have done something about it long ago, or they should at the very least do it now - but the amateur licence is stupidly cheap and comes with no guarantees and the larger users *aren't* complaining and if they are, they certainly aren't suing or fighting for refunds on their licences.

I cannot help you. The manufacturer's are pushing out firmware that does help you (thus acknowledging the problem) but nobody can force me to use it. Someone needs to take Ofcom, or the manufacturers, to court and get these things banned if they are that much of a problem. And if you can't get that far, or can't do it, or lose in court, then I'm perfectly happy to carry on using such devices as they will have been confirmed "legal".

Too little, too late, with too little proof of too little impact, and too little interest in doing anything about it.

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Mushroom

Re: Wow

I think you're being a bit disingenuous there mate, you complain that spectrum users should have complained in the "60s and 70s" when in fact the EMC regulation and testing industry and standards have been gradually built up over decades, going back to the very era you mention.

What has happened is that the manufacturers of these devices, realising that their devices could not operate at all under the existing regulations, have found ways of gaining representation on standards body working groups and pushing for relaxation of the existing standards. Until EN50561-1:2012 becomes mandated the current situation is that since October 2011 new PLC devices brought to market must comply with EN55022B, that actually makes all these devices impossible to make compliant.

So, where we are is that a soft area of the spectrum, namely radio amateurs and HF broadcasting which is in decline, has been picked as a sacrificial lamb on the basis of trees falling in the forest when there is no one about to hear them.

Over decades the EC and EU has gradually pulled more and more national laws under its aegis so that under treaty national governments are required to implement EU directives, that is why Ofcom cannot act because they are tied up in legal red tape and are also both promoter and protector of RF spectrum usage.

It's a mess and it is very difficult to fix. I am sympathetic to users of equipment that has been sold to them as legal, this is the fault of the regulators and the approach of business at all costs that the EU uses to increases the market for companies.

Oh, and by the way, there is a lot of evidence of impact, if you look at the statistics for growth of PLC use and increase in affected spectrum there will come a tipping point in a few years' time when large numbers of people start to see problems with their domestic radio-based equipment but may not realise why because the interference is difficult to perceive on digital modulation schemes whereas amateurs, because we still use analogue radio to a great extent, can hear it very easily. EN50561-1:2012 makes interference at 40dB greater than EN55022B allows, a 10,000 times power increase, acceptable and that means an increase in of a factor of 100 in the range at which interference can be detected. EMC used to require a maximum effective interference range of 10m, this new standard increases this to 1000m.

There is also a lot of unhappiness with many organisations who use RF spectrum about this, but they have been muzzled by government to prevent their views becoming widely known or effective. The BBC has published research showing gigabit PLC wiping out Band II FM and Band III DAB receivers in a domestic environment, GCHQ were forced to retract a critical report on the effect on their monitoring, there are others too.

Open your eyes and see what the future could hold for our technological society if sense is not returned to the regulation of emissions that occur due to physical laws that governments cannot repeal. The telescope will have to come off the blind eye sooner or later.

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I can only add...

...that as long as these thing do not transmit where they shouldn't be transmitting then everything should be fine. All users of the radio spectrum have to ensure their equipment does not cause interference to other users. I dont see why these power line devices should be any different.

The radio spectrum is full of users who use radio for a reason. They all need to co-exist and for the most part they do.

And yes, I am a fully licensed ham!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I can only add...

Yes, the whole radio system works by users playing nice to each other and working hard to resolve interference issues - and the regulations being quite strict on interferers (intermodulation is harder still). However, these things are not receiving off-air signals so are pretty much unaffected by external interference - so co-existence is not their concern or problem but everyone else's.

It's rather like sitting in a busy pedestrian street in your 4x4 with the engine on and A/C on, you pollute the outside environment for everyone else, but hey, you are OK as long as you keep the windows up.

Disclosure: I am both a radio amateur and radio professional.

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The coach and horses have left the building

This is the inevitable result of letting politico's sort out technical matters, at the moment the interference is limited but as these devices becomes faster the signal bandwidth increases and this is the future danger. There are reports of interference with FM radio, what worries me is when these devices start interfering with communications that affect peoples lives e.g. police/ambulance/fire services and someone loses their life because of it.

Some may argue that is already happening because the HF band is getting swamped by these devices.

I also wonder why I spend the time I do making sure the equipment I work on meets the CISPR and ETSI limits when PLT can do what they like, not a fair playing field. Anyway how do you measure the RF exposure from one of these things?

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LA4AMA - Roar

The real problem is that those regulators who are responsible for the EMC laws in each country does not take action if illegal devices are sold. How can they test everything ? The manufacturers dont care, they put a CE and EN55022 label on the device, even though it does not comply when tested by indipendent test labs. The world is lost in money making and selling cheap electronic garbage that spew out interference, no action is taken and nothing happens. And when the device does not comply to existing EMC laws, they just change the laws to allow more interference, while the correct and responsible thing would be to put their foot down and make the device illegal to sell, withdrawn from the market. Sad but true. It stinks.

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Facepalm

Bye bye EMC, it was good to have known you.

What most people seem totally oblivious to is that this "Standard" sets a precedent to allow products to flaunt the law. It makes a mockery of the whole idea of having products in the home that co-exist; the whole idea of EMC. Incidentally, conformance to this standard is non-mandatory! The EU law is contained in the essential requirements of the EMC regs - period. As has been constantly argued by Ofcom for years.

It allows manufacturers of for example Switching PSU's or LED lighting to remove EMC suppression components (and cost) and emit at levels that PLT operate at; but over whatever frequency range they care to. If PLT can operate at the levels stated in EN50561-1 then I would argue that these levels should be suitable for me as a manufacturer to use as showing due diligence to the EMC regs. Either a device emits RF onto a medium or it doesn't. You cannot limit emissions by a product type.

The whole idea of EN55022 (which is the relevant EMC standard for PLT) was to ensure that products we purchased didn't interfere with each other. This is not nor ever has been a purely radio amateur issue. It affects us all, yet the vast majority seem to have their heads in the sand and not to care. One of my colleagues has had problems with CE marked kitchen LED lighting stopping his DAB radio working. As a previous commentard mentioned, in the quest for higher bandwidth, these things will use higher frequencies. They are already up to 320MHz and who is to say that they will not continue to use more and more spectrum. It would make me smile if PLT caused interference to someone's 4G phone whose infrastructure caused interference to their enjoyment of Freeview.

... -.-

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