Call for sufficient communication spectrum for AMI and smart grids in U.S.


William R. Moroney,
President & CEO,
Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — February 3, 2009 – Utilities in the United States are facing a growing spectrum crisis, and at least 30 MHz of dedicated radio spectrum is needed to meet the communication requirements of utilities as they deploy advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and smart grids through 2020.

In a new report, “The Utility Spectrum Crisis: A Critical Need to Enable Smart Grids,” the Utilities Telecom Council calls on policy makers to allocate to essential service providers 30 MHz of spectrum in the 1,800-1,830 MHz band, in order to harmonize with the Canadian allocation for its electric grid and create a communications capability that can support the North American electric system.

In the U.S., 1,800-1,830 MHz is allocated currently for federal government use.

The UTC says that electric, gas and water utilities and gas pipelines have extensive communications requirements. Expansive, sprawling infrastructure, whether in the form of generating stations, transmission lines, water pumping stations, gas pipelines or electric substations, requires maintenance, remote control and monitoring. Field crews must have effective communications at all times throughout service territories. Individual customer meters must communicate back to the utility. These objectives can be met effectively only through communications systems, and among the most critical components in a utility’s communications arsenal are its wireless networks.

The UTC points out that in an earlier study in 1998 the organization predicted that the additional spectrum requirements for utility operations were 1 to 6.3 MHz from 2000 to 2010. However, smart grid technology and other demands have resulted in additional spectrum requirements. Utilities’ access to shared spectrum has declined as the need has increased. At the same time demand for critical emergency communications in the face of disasters – both natural and manmade – has stepped up dramatically, and federal requirements to report and monitor the security of critical infrastructure resources have been introduced. Furthermore, there has been the realization by Congress and other regulators that the electric grid of the future is critical to national security.

Utility companies will require advanced wireless technologies to accommodate a variety of energy and water operational advances. For the implementation of smart grids and more intelligent utilities, such technologies – and the spectrum on which to run them – are absolutely essential, says the UTC.

“We recommend the allocation of 30 MHz of radio spectrum for use by critical infrastructure agencies to meet the growing demands of voice communications, mobile data to personnel, fixed data including smart grid and AMI implementation, and vital security monitoring for those providing the most critical services to the public and the U.S. economy.”

“America deserves better, more reliable and more modern utility networks,” warns William R. Moroney, president and CEO of the UTC. “Without advanced communications capabilities, electric, gas and water companies will continue to struggle in their efforts to protect their networks and implement the smart grid.”