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NREL private LTE pilot moves to second phase

A private LTE network testing the use of the technology for distributed energy grid applications has successfully completed its first phase and is moving into its second.

The trial network, constructed at the National Renewable Energy Lab’s location in Golden, Colorado, uses 900 MHz spectrum held by Anterix, formerly known as pdvWireless. Anterix said that the project “successfully demonstrated increased reliability for distributed generation systems such as solar and wind using private [LTE] communications. The results show the potential for private LTE networks to effectively transmit control information without interruption or delay, regardless of usage level or other congestion conditions.”

“These initial results give a baseline for controlling intermittent energy sources that utilities can refer to as they plan for a future filled with solar generation,” said Mike Brozek, SVP of technology for Anterix.

“Adding more renewable and advanced energy technologies to the grid requires a backbone of secure, reliable communications,” said Juan Torres, NREL’s associate laboratory director for energy systems integration. “NREL’s work with Anterix at the Energy Systems Integration Facility is answering questions and identifying scalable solutions to allow communications to keep pace with deployment.”

In the second phase of the project, Anterix’s private LTE network will be expanded to include “a full suite of utility grid automation devices and the Advanced Distribution Management System control system,” and tested under congestion scenarios, with control signals prioritized over other traffic such as meter reading. Anterix will get guidance on testing scenarios from the Industrial Advisory Board with which it has been working on the private LTE testing. That board includes representatives from seven utility companies that service customers in 18 states: Consumers Energy, Duke Energy, Evergy, Eversource Energy, Hawaiian Electric, Holy Cross Energy and Xcel Energy.

Anterix has been seeking to support the use of private LTE for utilities and other industrial settings. It is a significant holder of 900 MHz spectrum. Back in the days of Nextel, Sprint used holdings in the 896-901/935-940 MHz to operate its iDEN network. In 2014, that Nextel spectrum was acquired by Anterix, which is headed up by a number of former Nextel executives, including Nextel’s co-founders. Although there are other licensees in the band, Anterix says that it is the largest holder with a nationwide footprint of licenses in the spectrum, owning about 60% of the channels with a nationwide footprint and an average of 240 channels (out of 399) in most major metro markets.

The company rebranded earlier this year.



Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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