Utilities Look to Private Broadband Networks In Upgrading the Grid

Southern Linc President and CEO Tami Barron addresses the first summit of the Utility Broadband Alliance.

As America’s electric utility industry evolves from centralized generation and distribution to a distributed model, data connectivity becomes key to make the coordinated, interactive approach possible. But today’s limited-application wireless networks are too inefficient and capacity-constrained to support tomorrow’s modernized grid.

Utility networks require greater security, reliability and guaranteed speed than wireless broadband commercial services can currently provide. Utilities of tomorrow will need private networks that are purpose-built to reduce potential cyber attacks, while providing the speed and reliability needed to keep devices connected.

A summit of utility leaders addressed the importance of developing private LTE broadband infrastructure in early October in Birmingham.

Southern Linc hosted the Utility Broadband Alliance’s first summit at Alabama Power’s facility, where utility executives, industry technology leaders and representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Edison Electric Institute and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association explored challenges facing electric utilities and examined private broadband networks as a critical element of the transforming grid.

The Utility Broadband Alliance (UBBA) is a collaboration of utilities and ecosystem partners dedicated to championing the advancement and development of private broadband networks for America’s critical infrastructure industries.

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The two-day event held discussions on cyber security, broadband spectrum options and vendor technologies and how these items would impact utility communication networks today and in the future. The summit also included tours of Southern Linc’s private utility LTE deployment.

Southern Linc President and CEO Tami Barron served as keynote speaker for the event and highlighted the importance of UBBA’s private broadband mission while sharing lessons learned. “Grid modernization and communication networks are in lockstep; one cannot happen without the other. Private wireless broadband is a key component of this strategy, providing the security and resiliency our networks need. We believe in sharing best practices across all service territories in order to facilitate the development of this critical piece of infrastructure,” Barron said.

UBBA Director of Member Engagement and Operations Bobbi Harris said, “It was an incredible opportunity to have utility executives, government thought leaders and industry technology experts together at UBBA’s first member event discussing the role private broadband networks can play in helping to secure and strengthen our nation’s electric grid. UBBA was created solely for this purpose, to drive scale and innovation for the utility industry, and we are just getting started.”

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