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September 10, 2012

Satellite Technology Becomes Strong Option for Smart Meter Backhaul



iDirect (News - Alert), a provider of satellite-based IP communications technology, and Pike Research have recently released a report on the growing role of satellite communications in smart meter backhaul—end-to-end communications from customer to utility.  

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More than 50 million smart meters will be deployed in North America by year-end 2012, according to the report, using information and communications technology (ICT) to disperse data on energy usage and to monitor the power infrastructure remotely. Satellite’s geographic reach makes it suitable choice for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) backhaul and distribution automation (DA) deployments, which represent the most ubiquitous smart grid applications across a utility’s service territory.

Pike’s Chief Research Director Bob Gohn said that there are multiple areas in which Internet Protocol (IP)-based satellite technology offers strong differentiation from other communications technology available today. Among its advantages are wide coverage, performance, reliability, and security. What’s more, satellite communications have become more cost-effective, with recent technology innovations that optimize the use of bandwidth and provide higher-speed connectivity to meet the growing data demands of the energy and utility market.

Gohn commented, “Thanks to advances in satellite technology—as well as reduced pricing for both the equipment as well as monthly service—satellite communications [is now] a viable and attractive means of connectivity for many smart grid applications, particularly smart meter backhaul. This information will be especially helpful for utility network designers as they work to maintain coverage across the entirety of their service territory without sacrificing performance.”

Among the key items highlighted in the report are the following:

·         With a roundtrip latency of 600 milliseconds, satellite connectivity offers a viable solution for the majority of AMI and DA applications and compares favorably with mesh technologies used within the smart grid;

·          Newer satellite technologies, such as the Digital Video Broadcasting Standard (DVB-S2), adaptive coding and modulation (ACM), and advanced forward error correction schemes facilitate highly reliable communications in all kinds of weather; and

·         Private satellite networks offer robust security benefits, including advanced encryption and authentication, alleviating concerns often associated with public cellular networks.

“As they build out the smart grid, utilities are increasingly turning to satellite technology to meet a wide range of communications applications, from supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) monitoring to smart meter backhaul. iDirect has taken a leading role in educating the utility industry about the benefits of today’s satellite solutions, partnering with Pike Research and other leading institutions to investigate emerging smart grid trend,” said Toni Lee Rudnicki (News - Alert), chief marketing officer for iDirect.

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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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