Clarification on Powerline Communications (PLC) technology

1. In the last few days, this Authority has received several requests for information on Powerline Communications (PLC) technology, namely regarding the caused interferences and the alleged adverse health effects that might derive from its use, apparently as a result of a text that has been circulating on the Internet by e-mail.

2. In very much the same way as with other systems before, such as GSM, in the scope of which people’s exposure to electromagnetic fields was tested, the situation is being followed up by the competent authorities. Regarding this matter, refer to, for example:

World Health Organization (WHO)

International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)

Links available in "Radiocommunications Services" area of ANACOM web site

3. Regarding the alleged adverse effects of non-ionizing radiations to public health, ICP-ANACOM, answering the requests it receives, evaluates the levels of electromagnetic fields in the radio spectrum to monitor the compliance with the reference levels of Administrative Rule no. 1421/2004 of 23 November, on the limits set to people’s exposure to electromagnetic fields.

4. LC technology enables transmitting data signals over electricity cable systems, by overlapping a higher frequency signals - from 3 KHz up to 30 MHz, depending on the application, on the normal energy provision - 50 Hz in Portugal. PLC technology has thus been developed to enable the supplementary use of a powerline distribution network for the provision of electronic communications services, namely broadband, to which it may become an alternative offer.

5. ICP-ANACOM has followed the international works developed in this scope, namely by the Spectrum Engineering Working Group (WGSE), part of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administration’s (CEPT) Electronic Communications Committee (ECC), taking part in the preparation of the ECC REPORT 024 - “PLT, DSL, Cable Communications (including cable TV), LANS and their effects on Radio Services”, containing studies on the impact of PLC technology on radiocommunications systems. It should also be noted that recommendation ECC REC (05)04 - “Criteria for the Assessment of Radio Interferences Caused by Radiated Disturbances from Wire-Line Telecommunications Networks”, which aims at guiding administrations in the event of interferences caused by cable communications networks, including PLC, was approved in connection with that same group.

6. The European Commission, in its Recommendation of 06/04/2005 regarding broadband electronic communications using the power network, tries to ensure transparent, proportional and non-discriminatory conditions for the roll out of powerline communications systems and to eliminate possible unjustified legal obstacles. For that purpose, it recommends that Member States, notwithstanding the set of provisions regarding those system’s conformity – namely with directive 89/336/EEC of 3 May 1989, on the harmonization of Member States’ legislations regarding electromagnetic compatibility, transposed by Decree-Law no. 74/92 of 29 April – eliminate possible unjustified regulatory obstacles, concerning the roll out of broadband communications systems through powerline and the provision of communications services using those systems.

7. In Portugal, ONITELECOM and EDP made pilot tests with PLC technology since December 2002, covering 1,153 households in 63 buildings of the Telheiras’ and Parque das Nações’ areas, connecting 286 different users. In the meanwhile, in March 2005, ONITELECOM and EDP informed ICP that they would begin commercially testing PLC technology to determine consumers’ reaction towards this broadband technology.

8. ICP-ANACOM will continue to follow PLC technology’s developments, in the scope of its powers, also regarding possible disturbances to the radio spectrum use or adverse effects to human health, both in the scope of its roll-out in Portugal and internationally. It will also follow the ongoing debate within several international fora in which ANACOM participates, such the European Commission, CEPT and ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), CEN (European Committee for Standardization) and CENELEC (European Committee For Electrotechnical Standardization).