LTE Touted As Best Fit For Smart Grid Communications

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LTE networks could offer the best solution to allow smart grids to communicate, claims a research firm

The communication needs of smart grids will be best satisfied by 4G LTE networks, analysts at Research and Markets have claimed in their latest report:  LTE Support of the Smart-grid Solutions, Applications, and Market Outlook.

“Electric power system delivery has often been cited as the greatest and most complex mechanism ever built,” the analysts wrote. “It consists of a vast amount of infrastructure including wires, cables, towers, transformers and circuit breakers.”

Communication Solution

The research firm believes that the arrival of smart grids will trigger a real need to look at their available communication options (such as fixed-line broadband and wireless), but LTE remains the best bet going forward.

“The so-called ‘smart grid’ is expected to bring dramatic improvements in everything from general network management to demand-response and other demand-side improvements,” it said. “Ultimately, it will help the supply-side as new technologies are implemented that create efficiencies for utilities.

“While there are many potential approaches for communications and signalling, including fixed network broadband and various wireless methods and procedures, Fourth Generation (4G) cellular (specifically LTE) is a viable option for implementation and operation,” it continued.

Smart grids essentially propose a network of intelligent meters in people’s homes to monitor electricity use and help consumers to make efficiency savings. They are currently being rolled out globally, with Berg Insight predicting they will be in more than 50 percent of European homes and businesses by 2016.

Wireless networks have long been seen as the best way to hook up smart grids – and the smart grid is the first major use proposed for white space radio, as promoted by Neul Networks. However, Research and Markets thinks LTE could be used instead.

The UK has already committed to smart meters, as have many other countries, as part of its drive towards smart grids but it is fair to say that the impending arrival of smart grids is causing a fair amount of controversy. They have been labelled as insecure; and there have been fears that the utility companies could sabotage them with high prices. There are also some health fears about whether the radio networks they use could cause cancers.

Other critics have wondered if the actual process of making use of the data produced by the grid might be beyond people’s patience or interest.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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