The Urgent Need for a Licensed Broadband Spectrum Allocation for Critical Infrastructure

Why the Utility Industry and Regulators Must Come Together in Support of Interoperable, Futureproof Smart Grid Networks

Over the next decade, Navigant Research expects the number of connected devices within the average utility to grow by an order of magnitude—at least—and the volume of data coming from each connected device will also climb. At the same time, the number of non-utility connected devices leveraging unlicensed spectrum bands will increase by 400% or more. This exponentially growing use of unlicensed bands could impact utility network performance and grid reliability. Add in the numerous operating and business model pressures that utilities today face and it becomes clear that there is a pressing need for a nationwide, standardized licensed spectrum band around which power utilities and other critical infrastructure providers can build their critical networks.

In this Navigant Research white paper, the critical drivers behind utilities’ need for licensed, standardized broadband spectrum is described. These include the integration of rapidly growing distributed energy resources (DER) into the power supply mix, growing concern over grid resiliency and increased risk of cyberattack, as well as the changing requirements competition places on customer service organizations. The paper also outlines the mechanics of spectrum licensing and availability in the US and summarizes the suitability of several potential spectrum bands.

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