Utilities increasingly employing private wireless FANs


Utility deployment of private field areas networks (FAN) in the form of wireless communications nodes using radio frequency (RF) mesh, Wi-Fi, WiMAX, or Long Term Evolution technologies will steadily increase over the next several years beginning in 2014, according to Pike Research.

Utilities are increasingly acknowledging the value in creating interconnected communications networks that enable them to better manage the distribution grid and are turning to FANs to deliver advanced applications across common platforms instead of running disparate and discrete networks for each type of equipment across their grids, Pike's research says. The proof is in the growth of communication nodes deployed in a utility's field of operations, including nodes for advanced metering infrastructure, nodes used to manage the distribution network, and nodes to connect substations.

"In addition to the operational efficiencies of creating a scalable, common management platform, private wireless FANs provide a system-wide view of the grid on a single platform," said Pike Senior Research Analyst Bob Lockhart.

As a result of financial pressure and operational efficiency, a variety of wireless transport technologies are likely to be put in place across the distribution network, rather than a single, overarching technology, according to the research. Subsequently, most utilities and vendors envision the current and future FAN as an amalgamation of a variety of transport protocols and networks -- some owned by the utility and some leased from telecommunications providers.

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