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T&D World Magazine

Electric Co-op in Texas Upgrades Communications through Radio IP

An hour north of Houston, Texas, the Sam Houston Electric Cooperative (SHECO) was founded in 1938 with less than 250 miles of line providing electricity to about 650 customers. Seventy years later, with close to 6000 miles of line and 60,000 customers, SHECO has asked Radio IP Software to help maintain critical voice and data communications with its 50 linemen and inspectors.

SHECO's technical consultant, Leo Hopper said, "Our linemen are using Oracle Utilities Mobile Workforce Management applications out in the field and because we were using Dataradio, we needed the Radio IP software to maintain constant and seamless contact."

In the past, lower bandwidth networks made it impractical to use data-rich IP applications, which sometimes overloaded and crashed the system. Radio IP MTG uses a patented optimized TCP/IP protocol that can increase network performance up to 154 times faster with some file types.

According to Radio IP Software's Director of Business Development David Torres, "Utilities clients like SHECO deal with similar problems such as signal loss caused by geography, tunnels, buildings or simply distance from transmission towers. Radio IP MTG automatically reconnects devices after a signal interruption, seamlessly roams between networks and keeps the socket connection open so no data is lost. SHECO needs to maintain contact with 50 or more linemen working across 10 vast Texas counties, so our product was the right choice for them."

Ease of installation and implementation was another important consideration for an electric utility operating on a 24/7 basis. Hopper said, "The initial configuration probably took a week but that included the Dataradio piece. There weren't any issues except some tweaking here and there. As far as the operations guys were concerned, they weren't affected one way or the other because the applications worked fine thanks to the Radio IP Software product."

In addition to Radio IP MTG, SHECO installed GPS Partner, a format-independent solution that integrates GPS data no matter the source format, protocol or device from which the data originates. The result makes all GPS data usable in every mobile application. Linemen could continue doing their jobs without interruption or retraining.

Hopper said, "Right now we're sending the GPS that's built into the Dataradio modem to two applications. The linemen are getting the GPS information locally and then the network -- their mobile workforce management application in the vehicles -- is getting the GPS information in NMEA format on the Radio IP server. That's probably why GPS Partner was so well received by our linemen -- they couldn't tell one way or the other -- except that all the information and data they need is continuously available and easily accessed."

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