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The emerging "Smart Grid", an intelligent distribution network supporting a decentralized mixture of renewable and traditional energy generation, will have to be fault tolerant and highly adaptable to demand. The backbone of the smart grid is a dependable communications network. While narrowband power line communication (PLC) systems have been considered for this role, they face serious reliability and throughput issues. It is demonstrated from field-trial measurements why this is the case and shown using simulation that Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) will overcome many of the reliability and throughput problems observed in the trials.