Duke Energy’s grid network strategy – cellular

| August 21, 2011

One of the biggest decisions for utility companies when it comes to implementing smart grids is their choice of communications technology to connect their grid and the smart meters of customers.

For one of the forerunners of smart grids, Duke Energy, the decision is to go with wireless carriers and owners of existing fibre infrastructure, according to this report from the Charlotte Business Journal.

While the decision might seem natural to most, it is not when it comes to industry practice. Many utilities in the past has opted to build their own networks, using a number of different technologies, instead of relying on existing cellular networks. The reasons for these own-builds also make a lot of sense. For starters, there are no currently few quality guarantees from existing cellular networks.

Imagine in critical periods, such as new year’s eve for example, when everyone is trying to get online to send messages to their friends and when the power grid is most likely under considerable strain due to all those parties going on everywhere, how can an utility ensure that their critical grid data will get through.

Another major concern for utilities is security, since public cellular networks are shared. Then there is the cost since cellular billing models for M2M communications is still considered in its nascent stages.

For Duke however, the decision to go with publicly available networks is down to technology, or more precisely, technology evolution.

Besides the fact that Duke has no desire to get into the communications business, public networks also have the benefit of being the core business of someone else. This means that those cellular operators will continue to invest in those infrastructure, and evolve them with the latest technology, something that would be both costly, and challenging – technically – for someone like Duke.

What do you think?

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Category: Mobile, Networks, Smart grids

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