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Introduction of IEEE 1901.2a

Last Updated : 18 Jun, 2021
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Overview :
In this article, we will discuss IEEE 1901.2a in detail. While the majority of restricted network technologies are wireless, IEEE 1901.2a-2013 is a wired technology that updates the original IEEE 1901.2 standard. This is the Narrow-band Power Line Communication standard (NB-PLC). 

NB-PLC Scenarios :
NB-PLC is frequently used in the following scenarios as follows.

  • Smart metering – 
    The NB-PLC can automate the reading of utility meters such as electric, gas, and water meters.
  • Distribution automation – 
    The NB-PLC may be used for distribution automation, which entails monitoring and controlling all the power grid’s components.
  • Public lighting – 
    It is a frequent application for NB-PLC, which includes lights seen in cities and along roadways, highways, and public spaces like parks.
  • Electric vehicle charging stations – 
    NB-PLC may be used to power charging stations for electric vehicles.
  • Micro-grids – 
    NB-PLC may be used to create micro grids, which are small energy grids that can run independently of the main grid.
  • Renewable energy – 
    The NB-PLC may be utilized in solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal heat applications. There are several PLC standards, but the lack of a low-frequency PLC solution prompted the creation of IEEE 1901.2a. Below 500 kHz.

Note :
Both continuous and direct current electric power lines are specified in IEEE 1901.2a. The data rate may be increased to 500 kbps. On terminals, the IEEE 1901.2a PHY and MAC layers can be blended with IEEE 802.15.4g/e, allowing for a dual-PHY solution in some situations.

Features :

  1. Standardization and Alliances –
    Poor dependability, limited throughput, lack of management, and poor compatibility affected the earliest generations of NB-PLC systems. As a result, numerous organizations have developed their own generational requirements. Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing is used in the current NB-PLC specifications (OFDM). Digital data is encoded using OFDM on multiple carrier frequencies. IEEE 1901.2a was part of the Home Plug Netricity initiative, which was one of the key industry groups that promoted the marketing and certification of PLC technology.
  2. Physical Layer –
    NB-PLC is defined for frequency bands from 3 to 500 kHz.  IEEE 1901.2 working group has integrated support for all world regions in order to develop a worldwide standard. IEEE 1901.2a supports the largest set of coding and enables both robustness and throughput. Tone maps and modulations for all bands, such as robust modulation (ROBO), differential binary phase-shift keying (DBPSK), differential quadrature phase-shift keying (DQPSK), differential 8-point phase shift keying (D8PSK), and optionally 16 quadrature amplitude modulation (16QAM) for some bands, are included in the standard.
  3. MAC Layer –
    The IEEE 1901.2a MAC frame format is related to the IEEE 802.15.4 MAC frame, however, it incorporates the most recent IEEE 802.15.4e-2012 amendment, allowing essential functionalities to be implemented. Information elements are one of the important components that have been moved over from IEEE 802.15.4e to IEEE 1901.2a. Additional features, such as IE support, IEEE 802.15.9 Key Management Protocol, and SSID are available. Segment Control is a field in IEEE 1901.2.  This deals with the segmentation or fragmentation of upper-layer packets that are bigger than the MAC protocol data unit can carry (MPDU).

MAC Frame Format for IEEE 1901.2

Topology for IEEE 1901.2a :
IEEE 1901.2a scenarios and deployment topologies are based on physical power lines. Signal transmission is limited by variables such as noise, interference, distortion, and attenuation, just as it is with wireless technology. Because these variables grow more prominent as distance increases, most NB-PLC implementations have a mesh topology. Mesh networks provide the benefit of allowing devices to relay traffic from other devices, allowing greater distances to be separated. The IEEE 1901.2a standard allows any upper-layer protocol to be used. As a result, IPv6 6LoWPAN and RPL IPv6 variants are supported. These protocols allow mesh networks to be created over PLC using network layer routing.

Security for IEEE 1901.2a :
IEEE 1901.2a security is identical to IEEE 802.15.4g security. AES is used for encryption and authentication. Furthermore, IEEE 1901.2a is compatible with IEEE 802.15.4g when it comes to supporting the IEEE 802.15.9 Key Management Protocol. Among the distinctions are as follows.

  • In all MAC frames carrying encrypted frame segments, the Security Enabled A bit in the Frame Control field should be set.
  • Data encryption should be performed before packet segmentation whether it is necessary. The Segment Control field is not included in the input to the encryption method during packet encryption.
  • Data decryption occurs after packet reassembly on the recipient side.
  • The ciphered payload plus the message integrity code (MIC) authentication tag for non-segmented payloads make up the MAC payload when security is enabled. The MIC only appears in the last packet (segment) if the payload is segmented.

Competitive Technologies :
Two technologies compete against IEEE 1901.2a in the NB-PLC domain: G3-PLC (formerly ITU G.9903) and PRIME (now ITU G.9904). Both of these technologies were created with a single-use case in mind: smart metering implementation across Europe using the CENELEC A band. IEEE 1901.2 is quite close to G3-PLC. G3-PLC requires data link layer protocol choices for bootstrapping and issuing device addresses, and it is incompatible with IEEE 802.15.4g/e and an end-to-end IPv6 paradigm, to name a few issues. PRIME is more akin to an ATM system, with a Layer 7 protocol (DLMS/COSEM) running directly on top of Layer 2. IP support necessitates the addition of Layer 3 protocols.

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