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The power-line infrastructure has been identified as an efficient system suitable for broadband power-line communication (BPLC) to connect and control various end users. However, the network is affected by stochastic attenuations due to the number of interconnected branches, their line lengths, associated terminal loads, etc. There is yet another parameter that could influence the above stated attenuations or distortions depending on the way the signals are allowed to return to the transmitting end. In this paper, we investigate whether a finitely conducting ground return could be used for BPLC and to investigate its performance over the conventional methods where one of the adjacent power-line conductors is used as signal return. This study could be helpful to those who are proposing the use of ground as a return conductor in BPLC systems. It will be shown that the use of ground return for the BPLC system is effective or better only when the ground conductivity is high (>50 mS/m). When ground conditions are poorer, attenuations increase with frequency, making them unsuitable for BPLC. There are situations where poor ground conditions can still be used but only the transmission-line lengths are shorter. The analysis presented here is based on transmission-line solutions both under lossless (without ground return) and lossy (with ground return) conditions and are applied to typical low-voltage and medium-voltage channels. Comparisons are also made based on the power spectral densities and channel capacities.
Date of Publication: Jan. 2008