Operational Opportunities for Utilities to Leverage Carrier-Based 5G
While the primary focus for this new technology from a common carrier's perspective seems to center around broadband services, the most likely areas that will be important to electric utilities will be the increased capacity to support field area network needs for connected grid devices. The "Grid of Things" will greatly benefit from the connectedness afforded by the larger IoT.
"We plan to leverage our AMI network for connectivity needs, but that may change as we deploy more 'grid-edge' devices," said an executive of a mid-sized mid-Atlantic utility.
Low-latency services potentially offer the opportunity to leverage this technology to support mission critical applications, such as protective relay management, SCADA, and substation communications.
"Use of 5G can potentially provide SCADA and other system data over a cellular network versus a hard-wired solution through fiber or copper," said a general manager of a Connecticut public utility.
The high data rate mmWave wireless broadband services may be applied to augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR), an area where some utilities like Duke Energy and EPRI are actively leveraging, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that will improve asset management and visualization.
As technologies continue to provide improved performance capabilities, the industry demand for hardware, software, and services is driving the cost of these components further down the price curve. In many cases, utilities may already own frequency spectrums where these assets can operate and are exploring and deploying private LTE (PLTE). In the past few months, new frequency auctions in the 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz band were held in an area known as Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS). Approximately 400 licenses were obtained by 11 electric utilities (6 IOUs, 4 co-ops, and one Muni).
Challenges 5G Creates for Electric Utilities
There are key foundational elements for this new communications infrastructure that include the use of existing and higher frequency spectra. These are the low band (less than 1 GHz) and the mid band (1 GHz to 10 GHz). These are where most of the 4G and LTE systems currently operate, but 5G involves the introduction of the high-band (15 GHz to 95 GHz) spectrum or mmWave.
Because of the physics of propagation, the high-band network will require a dense array of communications elements, known as small cells. In general, 'small cells' are defined by both their range — that is, how far the signals they transmit and receive can travel — and in many cases, the number of simultaneous users they can support.
Given the proliferation of microcells and the drive for carriers and infrastructure firms, like American Tower, Crown Castle, and SBA Communications, to leverage existing structures like electric distribution poles there is an increasing need for greater standardization of issues such as regulatory requirements, policies, safety concerns, and aesthetics.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established key requirements through various orders: "Pole access also is essential to the race for 5G because mobile and fixed wireless providers are increasingly deploying innovative small cells on poles and because these wireless services depend on wireline backhaul. Indeed, an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 small cells will be constructed by the end of 2018, and these numbers are projected to reach 455,000 by 2020 and 800,000 by 2026."
To facilitate the deployment of small cells, the FCC adopted a streamlined process for the rollout of these assets including setting governance over shot clocks and guidance over local governance regarding spacing, equipment design, and aesthetic concerns. It also established a new pole attachment process that includes "one touch make-ready" (OTMR), in which the new attacher performs all make-ready work.
OTMR speeds up and reduces the cost of broadband deployment by allowing the party with the strongest incentive — the new attacher — to prepare the pole quickly by performing all of the work itself, rather than spreading the work across multiple parties. This also covers areas such as overlashing.
In the United States, approximately 25 state legislators have enacted small cell legislation that streamlines the facilitation of these assets. These include applications to access public right of ways, caps on costs, and fees and shot clocks for consideration and processing.
Utilities like CPS Energy (CPSE) have put in place a set of policies that addresses best practices. They have established an Energy Pole Attachment Program to facilitate constructive dialog with attaching entities and ensure transparency: "CPSE standards provide for a non-discriminatory, consistent, and streamlined approach for the access and use of CPS Energy Poles in a manner that will facilitate the delivery of the variety of communication services offered today, as well as assist with speed-to-market processes for future technologies in a manner that is consistent with the safe and reliable operation of CPS Energy Facilities."
CPSE has a website for access to its pole attachment standard to facilitate this process.
Summary and Call to Action
The use of electric poles for placement of 5G mmWave small cells will happen. Electric utilities need to investigate, evaluate, and execute the following actions:
Fully understand the regulatory and legislative orders as they relate to OTMR requirements, shot clock, and reduction of barriers.
Follow the local governance guides that may apply in states where there is a policy or rule.
Develop internal policies and practices that comply with these regulations.
Establish collaborative relationships with carriers and tower installation companies.
Maintain equality and transparency.
Seek ways to collaborate on needs and services (that is, powering, access, and possible use of existing communications backhaul).
This article is a summation of work performed by EnerNex under a contract with Distribution Systems Testing, Application, and Research (DSTAR), which is a consortium of electric utilities, facilitated by GE's Energy Consulting business (General Electric International, Inc.), sharing the results of distribution research.
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See the original full article at: https://www.tdworld.com/overhead-distribution/article/21151981/5g-opportunities-and-challenges-for-electric-distribution-companies?utm_source=TW+TDW+Energizing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CPS210113071&o_eid=0371B9958123D7E&rdx.ident%5Bpull%5D=omeda%7C0371B9958123D7E&oly_enc_id=0371B9958123D7E