One of the main objectives of the U.S. government is to encourage fiber-based broadband networks to provide high-speed digital broadband access that will help stimulate economic growth in the 21st Century. At the same time, the Government’s focus is to create a green environment to save energy.
Toward that end, major utility providers are deploying smart grids at a very fast pace to overhaul and modernize their existing grids. Simultaneously, utility operators want to establish intelligent telecommunications that facilitate the needs of effective power distribution, intelligent monitoring and better management of power at consumer premises.
With FTTH being deployed by many providers, it would be ideal for telecom operators and utility companies to more aggressively work together to accelerate a smart grid roll out. This would avoid the cost and complexity of building and maintaining two separate communication networks. Extending the FTTx network to smart grid infrastructures allows utilities to collect real-time data, perform on-demand outages, and monitor the power utilization.
Change Is Upon Us
Historically, utilities have had no proper communication channels. Some utility operators leased E1/T1 links while others relied on xDSL circuits. The bottom line is this: A fast and reliable infrastructure is critical for Utility smart grids that require data and power to move upstream and downstream. That’s where smart meters come into play. They facilitate nearly real-time, two-way communication.
Currently, telecom operators consider Fiber-to-the-x (FTTx) as the best method to deliver their telecom services to subscribers. FTTx has many network varieties, depending on the termination point: premises (FTTp), home (FTTh), curb/cabinet (FTTc), or node (FTTn). FTTx has the advantage of bringing innovative high-speed telecom services such as IPTV, Video-on-Demand, voice, high-speed data access, infotainment and edutainment while also providing some bandwidth for utility services.
With these FTTx architectures, fiber-like, high-speed, low-latency networks are ideally suited for a variety of smart grid applications including on-demand meter reading, outage management, and continual power quality monitoring.
In addition, fiber networks are capable of handling data intensive applications such as distribution automation and demand response, which enables utility companies and their customers to interact near real-time in load shedding, price signaling, other conservation, and cost-saving activities.
SmartComms Is What?
The good news is there is now a way utility and telecom providers can help each other. This solution is called Smartcomms, which is a solution for utility service providers to monitor the meter reading with real-time data consumption at the centralized management location.
In addition, this process can potentially:
- Detect service related problems.
- Change the tariffs as per the consumer requirements.
- Limit or increases the pumping capacity.
- Deliver accurate invoices to provide specific information for monitoring and energy management purposes.
Smartcomms Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), with high-speed and redundant fiber optic communication network refers to systems that measure, collect and analyze energy usage from advanced devices (i.e. electricity meters, gas meters, and/or water meters) through optical fiber communication media on request or a pre-defined schedule.
A typical Smartcomms network consisting of several different components including:
- Meter and modules.
- AMI communications link consisting of FTTx (optical fiber) network, collectors, data concentrators or meter take off points with the network management system.
- A MDM application to handle the large volumes of interval data. An advanced meter will collect the reading of all different utilities such as electricity, water, gas, and heat by means of a Home Area Network (HAN) communication link. Those readings, collectively or individually, will be sent to a data concentrator, which acts as a local collector of the information for a particular street area.
- The HAN/LAN communication is connected through the existing FTTx network. The data from the data concentrator is then sent to the Network Management System (NMS) or data center for computation and billing purposes.
In a nutshell, fiber optic connectivity offers very high bandwidth over extended distances for utilities looking to improve their smart grid communications. It is the perfect network infrastructure to facilitate device-to-device connections for utility operators. With telecom providers looking for additional revenue and utility companies looking for ways to improve their two-way data collecting efforts, a stronger partnership between the two will benefit both.