The Evolution of Smart Grid Bandwidth Requirements

Next Generation Communications Blog

The Evolution of Smart Grid Bandwidth Requirements

By Erin Harrison

Wireless technologies are playing and will continue to play a significant role in facilitating the evolution of the smart grid. With high-speed wireless broadband technologies such as LTE, power utilities and industry forums are engaged in the process of acquiring spectrum for their use and/or sharing the spectrum owned by other organizations and carriers.

Given these trends, it is necessary that utilities have the required data bandwidth to determine the channel bandwidth in the possible wireless licensed spectrum such as 700 MHz and 1800 MHz (1.8 GHz).

In a recent whitepaper, “Smart Grid Bandwidth Requirements,” Alcatel-Lucent examined the bandwidth needed for an Long Term Evolution (LTE)-based Field Area Network covering a utility’s service territory.

“In particular, bandwidth requirements in LTE macrocells is estimated, taking into account expected smart grid traffic during normal operations and during critical grid incidents such as an outage, and the typical range of LTE macrocells in coverage-limited deployments,” the whitepaper explained.

Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs researchers in the paper provide estimates for the “worst case” bandwidth for several scenarios based on the coverage of an LTE macrocell in different demographics and in the 700 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum bands. The number of utility communication network endpoints in a cell is computed from LTE base station (enhanced Node B (eNB)) deployment for typical LTE designs, the whitepaper explained.

Alcatel-Lucent also maintains that most LTE deployments over 5 MHz band should be able
to support the smart grid applications without any problems, because the average uplink bandwidth capacity for 5 MHz LTE deployment is about 9 Mb/s with downlink capacity being much higher.

It is critical for power utilities to successfully monitor and manage demand, and identify shifts or surges in demand, where an overtaxed system risks a cascading failure.  They need an integrated communications approach to help mitigate such risks.

By connecting many points and sensors into a single, unified wide-area network, an infrastructure based on IP and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) gives power operators a more complete and more detailed picture of their network, which makes the smart grid “smart” on supply.  As Alcatel-Lucent states, it delivers the magic of 4G LTE in a very meaningful way.

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