Telecoms is the basis of an intelligent grid:
New electricity, gas and water networks of the future will be far more dynamic and flexible than the ones of the past. This is achieved by applying new ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) to the physical infrastructure. The heart of this new ICT is telecoms. In many cases, telecoms will be facilitated by fixed infrastructure including copper pilot cables and fibre running along the same route as the electricity, gas and water (clean and waste water) pipes and cables.
In many cases, for resilience, cost and speed of deployment, radio will be the preferred choice. But all radio systems have one essential ingredient – radio spectrum. This may be:
Utilities use a range of services to upgrade their networks to ‘smart’ systems. In some cases, commercial services will meet all their needs, but public telecoms networks usually have larger markets in mind, and those customers don’t have the same demanding requirements in terms of availability, resilience, latency, geographic coverage etc which are essential for a utility. Thus, on many cases around the world, utilities are self-providing or collaborating to build telecoms networks will meet their essential needs, and where they have control over the operation of the network.
Spectrum is the key
To be able to build radio systems, you need access to radio spectrum. This is an increasingly scarce and valuable resource in most countries, so utilities need to present a compelling case for spectrum if government is to grant them access to it.
To convince government that valuable radio spectrum should be allocated to utilities, they need to demonstrate:
Collaboration is vital
Radio spectrum does not respect national, regional or township boundaries. It’s also technically complex to co-ordinate radio systems to prevent interference. As there is never enough spectrum for every company requesting spectrum to be given what they ask for, Government spectrum managers want sufficient detail about proposed applications to ensure spectrum is being used efficiently.
Utilities need to collaborate and present a coherent case to regulators if they wish to be granted access to spectrum. Collaboration works across a number of areas to improve service and reduce cost, such as:
As utility networks become increasingly interconnected, even across national borders, they become interdependent for the integrity and continuity of service delivery, making visibility and transparency of network status between entities more important to maintain confidence.