New Private LTE Group Focuses on Business Case, Technology for Utilities
Friday, July 12, 2019 | Comments

The Utilities Broadband Alliance (UBBA), formed earlier this year and spearheaded by founding member Anterix, formerly pdvWireless, is addressing the business case for private Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks for utilities, along with use cases and technology considerations.

The group is not focusing on advocacy or lobbying the FCC, said Bobbi Harris, UBBA member engagement and operations. 900 MHz incumbents and industry players have weighed in on the FCC’s proposed changes to the band, which would spur a spectrum realignment to allow broadband services.

Instead of filing FCC comments, the 19-member alliance is working in four areas through working groups, the largest of which is a business working group. Harris said about 55 individuals are involved among the four working groups. Each group has a nine- to 12-month plan to guide its work.

Five utilities — Ameren, Evergy, National Grid, Southern Linc and Xcel Energy — are members and are driving the business working group’s focus. The business working group is tackling the business cases, drivers and challenges that utility broadband services will bring. Members are analyzing capital and operating expenditure models, rate case justification and monetization opportunities, Harris said.

The use cases working group includes a mix of utilities and vendors that are identifying current and future applications for private broadband networks. The group meets every week and plans to create documents and matrices that utilities could use to determine specific use cases.

The technology working group’s goal is to educate the industry on technology broadband solutions, private architectures and how radio systems can co-exist. This group is technical and plans to create white papers. Finally, the cybersecurity working group is addressing private broadband security requirements and what standards are available to tackle utilities’ requirements.

Motorola Solutions is another founding member of UBBA. “Our involvement came about because of our existing relationship with pdvWireless, and they established it and asked us to become a founding member,” said Scott Schoepel, Motorola Solutions vice president, commercial markets. “There is a lot going on around private broadband and LTE, and the ability to work with other vendors and critical infrastructure companies and promote private LTE to those business customers, along with the use cases and standards — we felt that was a worthwhile group.”

Schoepel said the alliance’s goal is to rapidly advance private broadband for critical infrastructure industries (CII) and share information about the technology. Utilities have mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) and broadband requirements for grid modernization and video, and UBBA will look at how to leverage video and voice, along with traditional voice and data.

“We do have customers that are existing LMR narrowband users [in the 900 MHz band] and are looking at applications for private broadband,” he said. “We see those two technologies working well together. We don’t see narrowband LMR going away any time soon, and the ability to share information between the two will be important. It’s like FirstNet (the First Responder Network Authority) and P25 (Project 25) networks — we see the role for both.”

Other UBBA members include 4RF, Burns & McDonnell, Cisco Systems, Council Rock, Encore Networks, Ericsson, Federated Wireless, General Electric, Multi-Tech Systems, Sierra Wireless, Sonim Technologies and Tait Communications.

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