How utilities are using cellular communications today


By Jesse Berst


In the early days of the smart grid, most pioneers used purpose-built RF mesh networks for smart metering and distribution automation. In the past two years, however, cellular technology has emerged as a viable option.


But when does cellular really make sense? I decided it was time for an update and so I've scheduled a Lessons from the Real World webinar with experts from Qualcomm and SAIC to learn what utilities are and aren't doing with cellular. (Click the link to reserve a spot and to submit questions in advance.)


In researching the webinar, I've learned that cellular is finding a home -- several homes, actually. Here are three cellular deployment strategies that utilities are implementing today in their smart grid programs:

·         Standalone solution. Utilities can now use cellular technology to link directly to meters, or directly to neighborhood concentrators. Consumers Energy is using the former strategy to deploy meters today, as is Texas-New Mexico Power.

·         Targeted solution. Utilities can use cellular to deploy smart meters and other grid-related assets in targeted locations to maximize ROI and minimize time to market. Entergy is using this approach, for instance.

·         Communications aggregation solution. Some utilities are using cellular in combination with other communications and computing technologies to address their grid modernization efforts.  Duke Energy's pole-top communication nodes fill this role.


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