Utilities Telecom Council: Utilities need service provider help for smart grids

Oct. 1, 2010
OCTOBER 1, 2010 By Stephen Hardy -- Utilities generally will not be able to meet their communications needs alone, according to a study released yesterday by the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) and sponsored by Verizon.

OCTOBER 1, 2010 By Stephen Hardy -- Utilities generally will not be able to meet their communications needs alone, according to a study released yesterday by the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) and sponsored by Verizon.

The study, "Utility Communications Needs: Key Factors That Impact Utility Communications Networks," is designed to describe the key requirements that utilities and communications service providers must meet to build networks that support smart energy grids.

"Energy and water companies need a range of advanced technologies to navigate the communications challenges we face in building 21st century intelligent networks and emergency response systems," said UTC president and CEO William R. Moroney. "Bottom line: Utilities cannot build all the communications networks they need, and best of breed communications service providers will be essential to their success. We believe this report will help both utilities and their technology partners to more rapidly understand where each utility needs its own networks and where partnership will enhance their operations."

Based on the UTC's research, energy and water utilities share a number of communications network requirements. These include:

  • extremely high reliability (the top network criterion, according to the study)
  • higher bandwidth
  • very low latency
  • ubiquitous coverage
  • tight security
  • uninterrupted power supply.

The study concludes that communications service providers will be successful with utilities if they meet the technical requirements for these factors in a cost-effective manner. The UTC also notes that the smart grid movement has prompted efforts to standardize industry technologies and protocols. These efforts, if successful in creating more uniform architectures, configurations, and applications, could accelerate the deployment of advanced two-way communications.

That said, the study also points out that each utility likely has a different set of legacy communications architectures that must be accommodated on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, a single approach to utility communications is unlikely to be created near-term.

The study is available immediately to UTC utility members free of charge; associate members and non-members can purchase the study at http://www.utc.org/utc/utility-communications-needs-2010.

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