While we at Ceragon do not typically spend our days gazing into crystal balls, we do like to look to the future of the industry and stay on top of network infrastructure trends. What we are seeing is many utilities, struggling to carve out the time or find the right experts to take a good, hard look at their networks – where they were yesterday, where they are today, and most importantly, where they are headed tomorrow. It is certainly difficult to predict the technologies and applications you will want to be using 10 years from now, but the key here is future-proof planning – to always design agility and flexibility into your infrastructure, and to make space for upgrades and bandwidth-hungry applications that you will need to continue to operate effectively today and into the future.
WHY A PRIVATE NETWORK?
Think of your communications network as the foundation for your company, enabling your employees to do their jobs effectively. You certainly would not move forward with rebuilding a house on a cracked foundation, or one made of old, crumbling brick. Similarly, your utility network must be solid, and withstand the test of time so that when you look to the future, you see a seamlessly running network no matter how much bandwidth-hungry technology you’ve added. So why should you consider a private network with boosted capacity for your utility communications infrastructure?
Flexibility and cost-savings. If you’re not already running your own private LTE network, we recommend this as consideration number one in the upgrade process. Building out your own network can seem daunting at the onset, and may not make sense in all cases, but for most utilities, it certainly does. As you adopt a fast-growing treasure trove of smart applications into your processes and workflows, you need to have the flexibility in place to consolidate and manage those applications on a single network. Additionally, a private network offers you full control of your network with the ability to put equipment where you need it most, with no dependence on a mobile network operator to determine whether your proposed location fits into their profitability plans.
Iron-clad security and reliability. In addition to the built-in securities native to the LTE standard, a utility owner can add extra security measures such as access/identity controls and monitoring functions, while also remaining completely isolated from other networks. With a private network, YOU get to decide how secure your network needs to be to keep the bad guys out. In addition to cyber-security, your network must be capable of handling the high-bandwidth, low-latency demands of the applications you’ve added to better serve your customers. As you roll out new features meant to improve customer engagement along with other applications intended to provide better real-time worker communications and improved productivity, you can feel confident that your private network is more than capable of handling the extra load.
A smooth transition path to 5G and beyond. Because private LTE is based on the 3GPP global standard, utilities can enjoy the benefits of standardized technology, the stability of forward and backward compatibility, and can oversee their own network prioritization. This is especially important as utilities run mission-critical applications such as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) that must always get sufficient bandwidth and prioritization.
MISSION CRITICAL – YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW
Utilities have been building out and maintaining their own private networks for decades, using them for applications such as land mobile radio communications as well as SCADA. But as utilities across the world look to lower their operating costs, streamline processes, and improve employee productivity – a digital transformation, if you will – they are coming to understand a modernized infrastructure with increased flexibility, capacity, scalability, and security is essential to their success.
Most utilities have some experience with operating their own private networks, and while you may believe you are covered to meet your current bandwidth needs, are you doing so in the most cost-effective and efficient way? And are you prepared for your future needs?
Legacy utility communications systems of the past were typically comprised of running multiple concurrent networks to serve various functions. From UHF/VHF land mobile radio communications to SCADA and mobile meter reading, utility operators have had to piece together disparate networks, over various spectrums, in order to run their communications streams, at best, somewhat effectively. As applications were gradually added, separate networks were needed to monitor each. With this reactive approach, things can get messy, fast. The problem here is that there was no one platform in place to centrally manage the influx of data, which can easily turn into a productivity problem and bottleneck for any company.
Meanwhile, it’s time to add another new IoT-enabled asset to the network. With so many new applications and the broad-sweeping possibilities they offer to a utility, we don’t foresee a slowdown in this technological boom anytime soon. Your network needs to be able to handle the high throughput, low latency applications you need to keep your company’s critical communications buzzing. Gone are the days of two-way radios being the most technologically advanced equipment on the network. Today’s modern utilities and IoT-enabled grids are smarter, scalable, and more agile, utilizing new assets to protect their network, enable smoother logistics and automation, and intra- and inter-agency communications, and ultimately, increase ROI.
Modern grid assets to consider today include:
- Digital twin technology
- AI, AR/VR
- Smart meters
- Real-time video
- High-resolution imagery
- Multimedia messaging
- Managed over-the-top (OTT) services
- Drones & robotics
- Mobile command centers
- Disaster recovery communications
- Integration of third-party solar and wind energy resources
Can your transport network handle the bandwidth demands of all these applications?
UNDERSTANDING YOUR CURRENT INFRASTRUCTURE
You don’t need to be a clairvoyant when it comes to your network needs, but you do need to take good stock of what you have currently in place. Every network is different, and every utility has different needs depending on a multitude of factors such as location, coverage, and functions needed. So what problems are you trying to solve in your network? Once you have a solid grasp of what pieces and parts you’ve got in place and the holes you need to fill, your visions for a network upgrade plan will begin to materialize.
Now it’s time to tap into your precognition abilities – AND have a good number of conversations with application owners and company stakeholders – to understand your true network needs.
Some key questions you should be asking:
- Do I know the true throughput, latency, and availability requirements needed for applications I currently run, and/or for those I’d like to add to the network such as multimedia messaging and AR/VR?
- What network assets and broadband architecture do I currently have?
- Will my mission-critical network stay up-and-running in the event of a disaster?
- Will I be running mobile user equipment and/or fleet communications?
- Is there a risk of security breaches on my current network?
There are plenty of questions to ask before you embark on a network upgrade/redesign, which is a good reason to consult early on with seasoned network engineers. Like most other design processes, proactive and predictive thinking is the key to success. With advanced technology and tools behind us, we can help prognosticate the right direction based on your specific needs.
THE CERAGON SOLUTION
In order to meet the high bandwidth demands of your future utility command center, be sure to take a close look at the bandwidth requirements of all emerging technologies you are considering. Bandwidth intensive applications such as AR and VR, as just one example, will require up to 1 Gbps connectivity with 6DoF to be able to achieve an “immersive” video experience. These types of heavy bandwidth applications are the way of the future, and soon enough, will be considered table stakes. Don’t wait for these groundbreaking opportunities to become headaches later on. Why not use this foresight to get ahead of potential problems by planning and optimizing your network now? Our flexible and reliable solutions can support some of the most demanding applications of today...and into the future.
Does this sound like more than you can take on right now? We get it.
No matter where you are starting in this process, we are here to help get you to the next level. From your very first network analysis to a system upgrade, a full deployment rollout, and even ongoing network management and optimization, we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work with you. Our experts have years of experience working through:
- Multi-technology wireless solutions
- Network design and engineering
- Budgeting challenges
- Augmentation of existing networks
- Licensing navigation process
- Complete network management And much more
So do not get too overwhelmed when you look into the crystal ball for the future of wireless networking and how it will impact your utility network. We’ve got you covered with agile solutions that will enable your utility to flourish and grow.
Contact us today for a free analysis