Almost every industry has or will be affected by cloud computing and the ubiquity of data exchange that’s facilitated by mobile communications. Utilities are no exception, and mobile communication is rapidly making the smart grid a reality.
A crucial new technology that can assist utilities with their smart grid is 4G LTE (News - Alert).
Cellular 4G LTE technology enables high-speed, high-bandwidth applications such as video streaming and online gaming for consumers, but it also can benefit utilities in six key ways:
- Improved performance
- Reduced complexity
- Better security
- Improved quality of service management
- Network sharing
The benefits of LTE
First, let’s talk performance
LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, uses multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technology that allows several antennas to be used on each tower or terminal. This significantly improves both coverage and capacity. LTE also uses orthographic frequency division multiple access (OFDMA), making it better able to leverage wireless spectrum. Thus, LTE is able to deliver more data, something obviously useful for a utility’s smart grid.
Second, LTE is based off a simplified all-IP architecture, which means fewer network elements. That translates into an ability to easily include a larger number of devices per network, something almost tailor-made for the smart grid and its multitude of network-enabled reporting devices.
Third, low latency is a feature of 4G LTE technology. LTE offers latency of 10-15 milliseconds, making it ideal for voice and video communications.
The technology’s ability to server extremely demanding applications because of this low latency will give utilities opportunities undreamed of before. A utility might use video-enabled drones to inspect transmission lines, for instance. This would hardly be possible before.
Fourth, LTE uses some of the most advanced security mechanisms on the market, making it much more secure than wireless systems in the past. Air interface security protects against wireless attacks while network security protects against security attacks generated in the wired part of the network. With utilities increasingly a threat for attack by cyber-criminals, the beefed-up security that comes from 4G LTE is almost mission-critical and comes not a bit too soon.
LTE also benefits quality of service (QoS) prioritization. Being an all-IP architecture, LTE uses a sophisticated QoS control that utilities can leverage to guarantee that incident and emergency traffic takes priority over less critical wireless data. With quality QoS, the most important data from the smart grid always has priority.
Finally, LTE facilitates network sharing. The architecture of LTE works with frequency bands and encryption to allow different parties and applications to share the same network. Utilities can therefore choose a variety of deployment methods, including licensing their own spectrum, piggybacking off the machine to machine network of a commercial mobile operator, or partnering with another organization such as public safety agencies.
Source (News - Alert) of new revenues
LTE is also emerging as a potential new revenue stream for utilities. In fact, as the result of LTE deployments in conjunction with smart grid deployments, under a concept known as UTelco, electric utilities are now positioned to offer their customers such services as high-speed data, voice and video either directly or based on a wholesale model. While you may not currently think of your power company as your communications service provider, the day that is a reality may be closer than you think. LTE in combination with smart grid is clearly changing the broadband landscape and it may be sooner than you think.
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Edited by Peter Bernstein