The need to move more data faster between distinct devices is raising the bar for utility communication networks. The initial requirement of remote meter reading has given way to a complex set of activities and applications that affect multiple areas of a utility’s operations—including distribution automation, demand response and load profiling. Sensus is addressing these growing demands in the next generation of its FlexNet point-to-multipoint, enterprise-class network.
The FlexNet system is a long-range radio solution that communicates via primary-use FCC-licensed spectrum. It serves as a dedicated and secure two-way communications highway that transmits at two watts of power to enable wide-area coverage that reaches all points in a utility’s service area without the need for additional or hybrid networks.
The next generation of the FlexNet system supports true end-to-end IPv6 communication across all platforms—electric, gas, water and lighting control. IPv6 compatibility transforms the system from a single application AMI network to a truly interoperable smart grid infrastructure enabling industry standard addressing to be used between all endpoints and applications.
The amount of spectrum offered to utilities by Sensus plays a key role in enabling them to efficiently transport more data reliably. Recently, Sensus increased the amount of spectrum to 525 KHz, and introduced advanced modulation schemes which increase data rates.
Another benefit of the Sensus licensed spectrum is the ability to dedicate distinct channels to specific applications, which greatly reduces latency that can occur when multiple applications share the same channel. Delivering data faster is more than just the speed of transfer—with the FlexNet system, utilities can prioritize time-sensitive applications such as distribution automation, remote shut off and demand response and ensure that these applications are not forced to compete with other network traffic.
Distribution Automation (DA) requirements have also grown. Once considered just a means to backhaul DA monitoring devices, the smart grid market is now requiring the network to support low latency applications like control of DA devices, peer-to-peer networking and over-the-air upgrades—all of which greatly increase the need for network bandwidth. In addition, Sensus has enabled a dedicated channel solely for the retrieval of real-time meter voltage information.