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Power-line communication (PLC) is gaining a renewed interest, due to the smart grid (SG) emerging communication requirements. Among other communication technologies, PLC is a very efficient and feasible solution, especially for the extended SG distribution networks. However, it is very challenging to consider both the medium- and low-voltage parts of the distribution network as a whole communication medium, due to the attenuating effects of distribution transformers, limiting PLC applicability. In this paper, data transmission through distribution transformers is investigated by means of multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) narrowband power-line communication (NB-PLC) system, utilizing orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) technology. Multi-conductor distribution line and measurement-based transformer models are developed to characterize the MV-LV PLC channel. In addition, OFDM signal processing techniques are applied to enhance the achievable data rates. The transmit power budget and bit allocation across the OFDM sub-channels of the spatial beams are optimized to maximize the data rate through the distribution transformer. The achievable data rates are calculated and systematically analysed for different scenarios to investigate the effects of the distribution lines, connected loads, noise models, etc. Results reveal the superiority of the proposed MIMO design against the traditional SISO systems. In addition, the possibility for an extensive and reliable application of MV-LV PLC communications through distribution transformers is shown.

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