FREMONT, CA: The mismatch between operator connectivity and the requirements of electrical companies have been highlighted time and again. Both parties face issues due to the disconnect, which needs to be addressed at the earliest.
Electricity companies have expressed key concerns related to coverage and resilience. The lack of coverage in public networks developed to prioritize population over geographic coverage result in the shortage of assets for those in rural locations. With the need to comply with strict regulations, the power systems are less resilient with the ability to recover quickly.
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These issues are impossible for the network operators to address since business models and network deployment techniques are based on fulfilling requirements of traditional smartphone customers. Although interest in network slicing was expressed, companies have expressed skepticism over the potential of 5G to address the problems of coverage and resilience.
The operator 5G trials have focused on the nearer term opportunities in the automotive and industrial IoT because the electricity sector is risk-averse and are unlikely to be early adopters of 5G.
Operators have continuously explored new business links with conventional electricity companies, majorly in the distribution network, and further upstream in the supply chain. With ideas like smart meters connected to substation infrastructure and low-voltage link boxes, the electricity sectors might open up to new players as the smart grid develops.
There is a proliferation of new enterprises that generate, supply, and consume energy, which requires connectivity to handle the communications at the integral point with the gird and across the microgrid. These are—communities that generate energy by renewable, electric vehicle charging (EVC) network suppliers, and smart buildings market—the new clients for operators.
The “Behind the meter” opportunities are significant and are subject to less stringent regulatory requirements when compared to the conventional utility sector. Operators, specifically cellular networks, are expected to act quickly as competition is higher, with the market being open and no entrenched competition being identified in terms of coverage and resilience.