More and more US utilities are showing interest in private wireless networks

JEA, NRTC and Southern California Edison are among the new members of the Utility Broadband Alliance (UBBA), which this week announcement it is now officially a non-profit association “dedicated to the advancement and development of private LTE broadband”.

The development is the latest in a series of moves within the US utility industry towards private wireless networking.

However, it’s still unclear exactly how the space will develop, given that utilities have a growing range of options to choose from for their private networks. A number have already signaled their intention to build their own networks with their own spectrum, while others may consider leasing spectrum, while still others may choose to simply purchase a private slice of a public network. .

Nonetheless, it is clear that the utilities are engaged in the matter. “As the first President of the Utility Broadband Alliance, I am honored that this team has appointed me to lead the Alliance until its incorporation and launch. experiences for UBBA members, ”said Ali Mohammed of the New York Power Authority (NYPA) in a UBBA version.

Mohammed’s appearance on UBBA’s board of directors comes as no surprise. The utility announced late last year that it would test private wireless network options with equipment from Nokia and spectrum from Anterix, Omega Wireless, Globalstar and AT&T, as well as CBRS spectrum.

Anterix, for its part, was instrumental in forming the UBBA, in part in preparing potential utility customers for its 900 MHz spectrum holdings. Anterix has already signed agreements with Ameren and Xcel, two other members of the UBBA.

The appearance of JEA, NRTC and Southern California Edison among UBBA members may also position Anterix for additional deals.

However, Anterix isn’t the only game in town. For example, Ligado and Globalstar also offer to sell or lease their spectrum holdings to utilities and others. Meanwhile, AT&T and Verizon are also working to sell private networking services to business customers, including utilities. And, separately, AT&T and Verizon have also touted network slicing technology in the standalone version of 5G that would allow businesses, utilities and others to buy dedicated pieces of public network connectivity than themselves. only can use.

Interestingly, AT&T has been striving to break into the private wireless networking space for years, primarily through its attempts to sell or lease its holdings of WCS C and D Block spectrum to utilities. Indeed, at one point, the company had contracts with 15 different utility companies in 18 states in the United States.

However, the recent CBRS spectrum auction appears to have killed AT & T’s WCS efforts. A number of utilities across the country ?? including Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG & E) and Alabama Power ?? bought spectrum in this case, likely to build their own private wireless networks with their own spectrum holdings instead of AT & T’s.

The extent of demand among utilities for private wireless networks is unclear. Some have invested a significant amount in space. For example, SDG&E has spent around $ 71 million on spectrum for its private wireless LTE network and will initially use it to prevent wildfires by shutting down failed power lines before they hit the ground.

Others, like the NYPA, are testing a range of private wireless applications, including drones capable of monitoring and inspecting transmission lines and tracking systems capable of analyzing customers’ power consumption.

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?? Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G and Mobile Strategies, Light reading | @mikeddano

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