2011-10-24  Powerline Modules   

CODICO has extended its range with products from SEMITECH SEMICONDUCTOR to maintain its status as a specialist in the field of p

SEMITECH SEMICONDUCTOR specializes in the development and marketing of PLC solutions with its head office in Singapore and its development center in Melbourne, Australia. The company is “fabless” which means that it does not have any manufacturing plants of its own and instead has its products manufactured by well-known contractors around the world. This ensures both the quality of the products and their availability.

In contrast to the products that CODICO previously had in its Power Line range which were in the “Broadband Power Line” group, Semitech’s products are in the Narrowband Power Line group.

Narrowband Power Line means the frequency range in which information is transferred. This starts at approx. 5kHz and reaches its upper limit at 150 kHz on the basis of the so-called CENELEC bands. Recent modulation and transfer methods such as OFDM actually use the frequencies up to 500kHz.

In contrast to narrowband, the Broadband Power Line uses the range from 2MHz to 30MHz, and more recently as high as 70MHz, with breaks in between.

The technology means that the possible transfer data rates are based on the bandwidths of the frequency bands used which means that for the Narrowband Power Line they are relatively low within a range from 5 kBit/s to 175kBit/s for a system with a bandwidth of up to 500 kHz. With Broadband PLC on the other hand they are 90MBit/s or 250MBit/s depending on which chipset is used.

The main benefits of the narrowband solutions from SEMITECH include the low power loss of the components compared to broadband components and the simple technology involved, particularly in the analog front-end and the simplification of the design which this entails. They are therefore aimed at a completely different market segment. They allow a number of control tasks to be implemented without having to install new cables in a building, starting with lighting, air-conditioning and heating controls and extending to shutter controls.

The use of the power generated by solar systems is a completely new area of activity. In some countries in Europe the consumption of electricity generated by domestic solar cells receives more support than feeding such electricity into power lines to relieve the strain on them. In this case, therefore, it makes good sense to switch on high domestic consumers such as tumble driers and hot water boilers when the solar system is generating lots of electricity. SEMITECH PLC components make it possible to produce such situation-dependent activation and deactivation processes easily, at low cost and without any additional installation work with a remote control which uses the power lines themselves.

These SEMITECH solutions are also popular for remote meter reading. Since all new domestic energy and water meters feature a communication interface, SEMITECH chips can be used to read the data from the meter and feed them into the power lines. The data can then be retrieved at another point and collated and evaluated in a data collector or visualized using a display (tablet PC, iPhone, etc.).

Since the noise immunity of SEMITECH chips is very high, it is possible to achieve relatively large ranges both within a house and on the medium voltage power network.

Another possible application is the control of street lighting where the SEMITECH solutions are not just restricted to switching such systems on and off. The SEMITECH products have a perfectly adequate data rate for these applications and also enable customers to produce brightness controls and even responses from the street lights so that, for example, early warning systems can be implemented to report any deterioration in the condition of the LEDs used or failures of conventional lamps or power supplies.

SEMITECH currently supplies three products which are already in worldwide use in many customer applications.

Firstly the SM6401 is a PLC transceiver chip with an integral 32-bit microcontroller and 32kByte flash memory operating in the CENELEC A, B and C bands. BPSK and FSK are used as the modulation schemes on two of eight possible frequencies. Its receiving sensitivity is around -80dBV. It includes both an SPI and a UART interface for data communication and up to 21 additional inputs/outputs with a 5V tolerance. The SM6401 only requires a supply voltage of 3.3V. Its operating temperature range is -40°C to +85°C.

Semitech also supplies the SM2101 for low cost solutions. This is almost the same chip as the SM6401 but without the integral microcontroller and without the internal flash memory. This means that its silicium surface area has been vastly reduced compared to the SM6401 and its housing has been reduced in size so that the chip can be supplied at a much lower price.

Using OFDM as its multiple modulation method and a bandwidth of 5kHz to 500kHz the SM2200 stands out against the other two products. The pure transceiver block (within the internal microcontroller and flash memory) uses 54 of a list of 100 preprogrammed carrier frequencies and grouped in 18 independent OFDM channels. This makes data transfer rates of up to 175kBit/s possible. BPSK or QPSK can be used as the sub-carrier modulation method. CENELEC emulation allows it to be used in the frequency bands defined by CENELEC. Power-down modes also reduce its power consumption. (The list of other functions and features which set the SM2200 apart from its rivals on the market is a long one and there is insufficient space here to reproduce it in full.)

Development, evaluation and demonstration boards with detailed documentation and details application notes are available for all three of these ICs.

Further information on the products listed above is available from CODICO.


Since 2009 CODICO has been representing INTELLON*, the market leader in the field of Home Plug AVs. The company has now sold more than 70 million Power Line Chips. To provide customers with fast access to PLC technology and make designs possible without a massive amount of work CODICO has also incorporated the module solutions from DEVOLO based on INTELLON chips in its product range from the start of this year. Taking on the agency for SEMITECH SEMICONDUCTOR merely underlines CODICO’s specialist role in the PLC segment.

In 2009 INTELLON was sold by ATHEROS COMMUNICATION and ATHEROS COMMUNICATION was taken over by QUALCOMM in 2011; the new company is now called QUALCOMM ATHEROS.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like detailed specifications.


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PLC Component for power supply
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Controller for street lightning
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SM6401 - PLC Transceiver Chip
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