UTC Releases New White Paper on 5G and Utilities
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | Comments

The Utilities Technology Council (UTC) and its global affiliates released a new white paper focusing on the emergence of 5G communications and whether and how utilities, particularly electric utilities, will be impacted.

The new white paper, titled “Cutting Through the Hype: 5G and Its Potential Impacts on Electric Utilities,” frames the numerous issues and challenges electric utilities across the globe confront in adapting as the wireless industry transitions to 5G services. Joint Radio of Coventry, United Kingdom, produced the paper.

The paper does not offer policy proposals or a comprehensive plan forward; rather, it presents the issues facing utilities and interested stakeholders as they determine what is possible in a 5G world, as well as what is hype.

“This paper helps level-set utilities as the hype around all things 5G dominates the global telecommunications landscape,” said UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto. “In spite of all we hear about the race to 5G, this report makes clear that while the impact of 5G wireless service could be profound, it is years away from being widely deployed. This paper demonstrates that there are many policy questions and uncertainties surrounding the kinds of devices and density needed to widely deploy 5G services. At the same time, there are opportunities for utilities to use 5G technologies for some operational enhancement and potentially to partner in terms of joint use of infrastructure, if done right. We will be paying close attention both in the U.S. and globally as these challenges persist.”

The paper highlights a number of policy challenges related to 5G deployment, including the following:
• Base Station Sites: 5G will require many more base station sites, one order of magnitude or more possibly. Finding suitable sites will be a major challenge.
• Backhaul: Creating base stations with multiple antennas and multifrequency bands has created the requirement for gigabit backhaul, which many existing sites have not been able to accommodate. Ideally, 5G sites will have fiber backhaul, but connectivity with backhaul fiber for the dense network of base stations envisaged for small 5G cells is likely to be expensive, especially in areas not already well served by fiber.
• Electricity Power Supply: The vast number of small radio sites envisaged will require electricity supply. The cost of installing and maintaining these power sources reliably may create a significant overhead cost.
• Power Consumption: The power consumption of individual base stations must be reduced by an order of magnitude just to keep costs level if the number of base stations increases as predicted.
• Security: Cybersecurity is frequently raised as a major issue for 5G networks, particularly related to equipment vendors, although it is not clear that 5G will be any more vulnerable than previous generations of mobile networks.

“Justifying the granularity of 5G infrastructure may become a social issue because of the sheer cost of the density of infrastructure needed,” the paper said. “Potential revenues in low population density areas (i.e., rural) will not support the required investment by conventional mobile carriers. However, in the same way as rural broadband has become a potentially attractive opportunity for some electric utilities, deploying 5G radio networks in areas which might not otherwise be served may be a beneficial service enhancement for power utilities, especially where the utility already has fiber connectivity.”

The paper is available here.

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On 3/14/19, Osvaldo Coelho said:
Fiber will be king. The stakeholders haven't seen it yet.

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