It recently became available: The first powerline chipset designed according to the new IEEE 1901 standard, consisting of an AR7

The new chipset enables a significantly faster data transmission rate than the existing INT6400 chipset designed according to the HomePlug AV standard. Whereas a gross data transmission rate of approx. 200Mbps can be achieved with the INT6400 chipset, the new AR7400 chipset manages 500Mbps and is thus two and a half times faster!

On 30 September 2010, the IEEE Standards Association adopted the new "P1901/D4.01 (COM/SC) Standard for Broadband Over Power Line Networks: Medium Access Control and Physical Layer Specifications," according to which the AR7400 chipset was designed.

The IEEE 1901 standard is practically an extension of the existing HomePlug AV Standard. With HomePlug AV, around 1,100 carrier frequencies in the approximately 2MHz to 30MHz range are transmitted in distributed fashion to the line. Depending on the quality of the transmission path and existence of interference sources, these frequencies are modulated with up to 1,024 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation). The IEEE 1901 standard extends this frequency range to up to approx. 68MHz, thus enabling an increase in the number of carrier frequencies to around 2,700. The modulation process, too, has been extended – to 4,096 QAM.

At the same time, devices meeting the HomePlug AV standard can still exchange data with devices designed to IEEE 1901 specifications.

At this point, we wish to clear up a common misunderstanding: The gross data rate does not have a lot to do with the actual Ethernet data transmission rate. Because of the necessity for constant information exchange between two power line nodes, as well as the need for encryption and error correction processes, the usable data rate is reduced to approx. 95Mbps UDP for the 200Mbps INT6400 chipset and to approx. 250Mpbs for the 500Mbps AR7400 chipset. Unfortunately, however, even these data rates aren’t achievable in real-world applications, for in Central European homes the typical attenuation values normally lie between 65dB and 75dB. Image 1 shows the influence of attenuation on the usable data rate for both chipsets.

As a result, one is able to achieve actual data rates between 50Mpbs and 80Mpbs for the INT6400 and between 75Mbps and 120Mbps for the AR7400. As an alternative, one can utilize the improved performance of the new chipset to increase range, by driving it with an MII interface instead of an RGMII.

The AR7400 is manufactured in 65nm technology and the AR7400 MAC/PHY chip includes an ARM11 processor. MII / GMII and RGMII host interfaces are available for data transmission. In addition, communication via UART is planned. GPIO / SPI / I2C interfaces support communication and signaling with outside devices. Image 2 provides an overview of the two new components, their interfaces and their connection types.

As is currently the case for the INT6400, the AR7400 chipset, too, suits not only pure powerline applications, but can also be used in practically all types of two-wire data links, e.g. bell wire, CAT5 cable, coax, etc.

The AR7400 and AR1500 are available ex stock from CODICO for the commercial temperature range.

Also available is the RD7400-GE Gigabit Ethernet wall adapter reference design (Images 3 and 4), which can furthermore be used as an evaluation board. It contains the bill of materials, Gerber files, circuit diagrams, board layout and mechanical specifications, and meets the UL60950 and CE60950 safety standards. With respect to emissions, it complies with FCC Part 15 and CE Class A and B.

Additional information is available from us!


Pic. 1: Influence of attenuation on the usable data rate
Pic. 2: AR7400 chipset and its interfaces
Pic. 3: RD7400-GE reference design
Pic. 4: Interior views of the RD7400-GE reference design
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