Monday, June 7, 2010

Importance of 3.65 GHz Frequency Band for Smart Grid Market

By Ashish Sharma, VP, Corporate Communications, Alvarion Ltd.

As the utilities look to build their future smart grid networks, it is imperative that they consider solutions that are reliable, secure, scalable and easy to integrate with the flexibility of addressing multiple types of services for efficient operations. WiMAX technology allows utilities to wirelessly create a future proof broadband communications infrastructure that can bring great efficiencies to a traditionally fragmented energy distribution system. Based on an all-IP architecture with a robust OFDMA radio interface, WiMAX technology supports multiple types of applications on a unified platform.

Access to the right frequencies plays a major role in building secure wireless networks. The quasi-licensed 3.65 GHz band in the U.S. provides a good alternative for utilities to build their own private WiMAX networks for smart grid communications. With the exception of a few places in the country, this frequency remains largely unused and has the potential to provide a good footprint. FCC adopted a structured entry approach by employing a non-exclusive licensing scheme for this band. This approach has allowed the licensees low entry costs, avoiding long regulatory delays.

There are two challenges that need to be taken in account when deploying a 3.65GHz solution:

  • Exclusion zones, where 3.65GHz is not allowed due to earth stations
  • Migration path to a licensed 2.3/2.5 GHz WiMAX frequency if desired at some point in the future

Alvarion-optimized smart grid connectivity solutions addresses both challenges:

  • A WiMAX 802.16e solution in license exempt (5.4/5.8 GHz) frequency, overcoming the limitation of the exclusion zones
  • A unified solution that addresses both 3.65GHz and 2.3/2.5GHz frequencies that allows expanding a 3.65 GHz fequency network into a licensed 2.3/2.5 GHz fequency network using the same product

Alvarion offers the latest 802.16e WiMAX solutions for this frequency band in a variety of configurations including an all outdoor base station that provides cost effective rollout over large distances. Alvarion’s experience in designing all-IP wireless broadband networks will bring much-needed expertise to utilities striving to integrate managed energy utilization, lower greenhouse gas emissions and innovative on-the-go applications.

Alvarion’s open WiMAX network architecture based on end-to-end all-IP solution allows for great flexibility to integrate other smart grid solutions such as meters, distribution automation devices, collectors, etc. The network built on this architecture has the ability to enable other applications such as mobile workforce, video surveillance, home area network and communications for substation automation. Alvarion’s solution provides a holistic 4G infrastructure that provides the real-time, QoS, broadband and mobility requirements for current and future smart grid applications. These solutions are available in both licensed and license-exempt frequencies with high link reliability and availability.

Though getting access to private spectrum remains the best choice for utilities, the 3.65 GHz frequency band allows for a good near term option that can help them build an IP-based WiMAX network with a relatively lower cost when compared to other technologies that exist in the market today.

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