The energy transition has turned utilities into time travelers.

Grid operators and asset owners need to be fully present so that they can adapt to challenges in real time, but also able to leap into a net zero future - and then build a path that leads to it.

Network communication strategy is a good example. Right now, operators are exploring ways to put together reliable, low-latency comms solutions with the bandwidth available – but at the same time, they’re keeping an eye on the prospect of 5G.

As the disruption caused by the energy transition gains momentum, more utilities are debating whether they should be investing in 5G today.

Well, it’s all about timing.

G is for “gamechanger”

Today’s operational and information technology (OT and IT) networks use a complex mix of 3/4G, Wi-Fi and LTE to connect systems and technologies. It’s a rich selection that can be used to create a perfectly functional comms network – in fact, they should be.

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However, the expected influx of distributed sensors, data capturing devices and both owned and non-owned DERs means that these networks need to be smarter, and faster. In fact, the vendors who supply smart devices are already struggling with current communication limitations; limitations that are preventing utilities from accessing crucial data in real time.

There’s clearly a need for another level of low-latency, wide bandwidth communication infrastructure.

Because it is backwards compatible and offers low-latency, high-speed 5G may be the antidote to the expected pressure facing communication networks over the next 5 to 10 years.

Apart from improved reliability, 5G is a gamechanger because of its power to unlock the promise of new technologies, and in turn, new business models.

A private 5G wireless network, which will likely include a migration path starting with private 4g and a flexible platform that is upgradeable to 5g, that includes Wi-Fi, 4G and 5G could make time travel possible.

It can help to address current grid resiliency and infrastructure virtualization needs and pave the way for future innovation like Edge and Cloud computing powered by AI, extended reality, and Digital Twins.

Apart from making new models and products possible, 5G can not only strengthen the value chain, but also encourage greater connections – between people and customers.

But just how far can 5G take utilities?

A sneak peek at tomorrow

5G isn’t only about building new models. It can also empower utilities to find new answers to persistent challenges such as the quest for growth, cost reduction, and CAPEX optimization.

Thanks to extended coverage and reliability, and lower latency, both private and public 5G networks can trigger innovation with a significant financial impact that justifies the initial spend: particularly as the energy transition accelerates.

In the future, 5G will be the foundation of essential capabilities: from field worker connectivity and the connected fleet, to Electric Vehicle (EV) charging, and second-generation AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure), to name just a few of opportunities.

It will be the lifeblood of an actively managed energy system.

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With organizations needing to cope with the expected expansion of renewable energy providers, the growing importance of local energy management due to an increasing penetration of EVs, broad decarbonization, advancing grid intelligence, and broadband as infrastructure becoming more broadly defined – 5G should be the destination for any organization looking to address the challenges of today, and tomorrow, now.

Dialing up the disruption

Despite all the uncertainty caused by the energy transition, one thing is clear: the utility grid will demand a communication platform that enables fast data acquisition and transmission and rapid data-driven control responses to manage an increasingly complex set of variables.

Whether this is through a gradual shift through 4G or a leap straight to 5G, utilities that have a clear understanding of the implications of the future grid, and an integrated telecommunications strategy, will be empowered to integrate this capability and ensure that the energy transition presents more opportunities than obstacles.

Contact us to discuss your new network communication needs.

Hugo Van Nispen

Managing Director – Industry Solutions

Rafael Granja

Director – Industry Solutions & Services

Kevin Kapich

Principal Director – Critical Networks Lead, 5G and Networks Practice

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