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Following a soft launch in February at DISTRIBUTECH, membership of the Utility Broadband Alliance (UBBA) has grown to 19 member organisations, all working hard to formulate the Alliance working groups and overall Alliance focus.

“We are continually adding members,” says Bobbi Harris, head of Member Engagement and Operations. “But what I’m really excited about is the fact that the working groups are very active and already developing group priorities and deliverables. We have four working groups and each one has laid out it's Charter, topics and priorities for the next eight to twelve months.”

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International 4-2019. Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here.

UBBA is a knowledge-sharing alliance of like-minded individuals who are concerned with the development of utility broadband technology and are working to deliver opportunities to the industry.

“There’s a lot of real work going on behind the scenes from the utilities and technology providers who first raised their hands and said ‘This is important to us’,” says Harris.

The working groups are divided as follows:

The business working group – works to determine the drivers, and define the business cases and challenges, that operational directors and executives of utilities think about. Specifically, what the drivers for utility broadband are and what they would look like for a utility.

These include considerations such as opex vs. capex financial models of broadband infrastructure development, and how these are influenced by the specific regulatory environments in which they work.

Working closely with them – and dependent on one another – is the use cases working group. This working group is currently identifying and prioritising a very long list of use cases at the utility level that could utilise broadband. The next step will be to identify broadband requirements for each of those use cases in order to formulate a plan that other members will be able to use as a blueprint for their own broadband initiatives.

Another path of the broadband decision tree is the technology working group focused on the technological decision points, as well as the solutions and broadband architecture needed to enable the delivery of these networks. These would include things like a reference network architecture and technological requirements and issues, spectrum requirement and the availability of that spectrum.

The final group is the cybersecurity working group.

“The group is working to determine issues around data privacy and data integrity; data validation and traceability, authentication and regulatory compliance and requirements.

“The founding members decided on the focuses for the working groups and the fact that they wanted a working group dedicated to the education of cybersecurity and security issues for private broadband or broadband networks says a lot about where the industry is going,” Harris explains.

All working groups hold weekly or bi-weekly calls and/or meetings and work to deliver on the mandate of UBBA, which is to “focus on collaboration and education around utility broadband in order to champion the advancement and development of dedicated broadband networks as a key enabler of the utility of the future,” says Harris.

Priorities for the remainder of 2019 include capturing and defining the use cases that are the most critical to a utility.

“We’re talking about core utility business – and telecommunications is integral to the safe and reliable delivery of energy.

When you think of substation automation, distribution automation activities and other millisecond communication needs of critical infrastructure – telecom is crucial.

“We are in the beginning stages of the Alliance,” says Harris. “Now is the time for utilities to come onboard and help structure the group, and bring their views to light and collaborate with their peers. This is a great opportunity for utilities to engage with others that have started on their own broadband journey. If a utility is in the beginning stages of this journey, they don’t know what they don’t know. Being in a position to have conversations about the ‘what-if’ of private broadband and ask questions of other utilities and organizations which have already gone down the path is a great resource, no matter where you are in your broadband journey,” Harris concludes. SEI