AMI and intelligent grid will require expansion of fiber networks


Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — September 17, 2005 – The requirements of the intelligent grid and AMI as well as substation and distribution automation will lead to the expansion of utility fiber optic networks, according to the Utilities Telecom Council’s (UTC) latest report, “The State of Utility Fiber 2007.”

While fiber optic technology is in widespread use throughout utilities, there is little expansion of networks currently, the report says. Instead, utility investment in fiber is focused on “capital deepening”, targeting mainly increased gigabit Ethernet capability – the area expected to have the most future growth and activity – and investment in Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM) on congested routes to increase network capacity and diversity.

The report, which was authored by KEMA Inc., found that the main driver for fiber implementation is internal requirements, both at the corporate and operational levels. Moreover utilities are expanding fiber only when partners help them share the costs of buildout, or when transmission line builds present opportunities to install fiber cost effectively.

This marks a shift in the commercial fiber market, following the development in the 1990s and early 2000s of fiber routes by utilities with the anticipation of selling the capacity to customers, and the subsequent decline of competitive utility telecom business units.

Future applications for the intelligent grid and substation and distribution automation will drive future IP and Ethernet requirements, which in turn will tend to increase bandwidth requirements for internal operational needs. In addition the future intelligent grid may be a factor to extend services to customer homes, and fiber may play into that as one of several connectivity options.

Commenting on the report, William R. Moroney, president and CEO of the UTC, said that fiber is a critical aspect of utilities’ telecommunication plans. “In recent years, the role of fiber has increased dramatically, but also is changing; keeping up with these industry-wide changes is key to managing fiber successfully.”

Currently two types of cables are widely used by power utilities: ADSS cables, which are installed mainly on lower voltage facilities such as distribution poles, and Optical Ground Wire (OPGW), which is installed on transmission lines. Fiber is also buried or placed in underground conduits, mainly in metro areas.

The Utilities Telecom Council is a global trade association dedicated to creating a favorable business, regulatory, and technological environment for entities that own, manage, or provide critical telecommunications systems in support of their core services.