Ausgrid, Australia: Smart grid network to use LTE

Australia’s largest electricity distributor builds wireless smart grid network

4G wireless is set to be an integral part of Australia's leading "smart grid" rollout after an agreement between Ericsson and Ausgrid, Australia's largest energy distributor (formerly EnergyAustralia).

Ericsson has designed and integrated a multivendor wireless access network that enables two-way communications between electrical control devices, back-end systems and households. The network is being rolled out in 2011 across 150 sites covering the metropolitan area of Sydney, Australia, and regional areas north of Sydney.

The telecommunications network will collect data from 12,000 smart monitoring devices being installed on the electricity distribution network, up to 3,000 mobile field computers, and 200 zone substations. Ausgrid is a leader in introducing sophisticated and efficient energy distribution to Australians. The company's "Smart Home" demonstration home showcases the benefits of the latest technologies for consumers, including smart metering and intelligent infrastructure. 

Smart grid

A smart grid gives households greater control over their bills and environmental impact, and allows renewable energy sources to be better integrated. A smart grid also improves the reliability of the electricity network by allowing it to self-heal when faults occur, and allows effective conditionbased maintenance to reduce the likelihood of faults. The operations teams can be provided with real-time awareness of the electricity network status, improving both operations and planning.

Ausgrid Managing Director George Maltabarow explained: "A smart grid needs a communications platform to bring real-time data back from our substations, field devices and smart meters so we can turn it into useful information for field staff, engineers and households. The communications network is essential to transforming the electricity network into a two-way grid that is smarter, greener, more reliable and more interactive for households." Ausgrid began trials of a communications network in 2009 with an initial deployment of WiMAX radio equipment. Under the Ericsson agreement the existing network has been greatly extended, and trials of an LTE platform will commence in 2011, with the aim to migrate to a full LTE network based on the success of those trials.

Maltabarow continued: "We are now rolling out a WiMAX communications network and will begin trials of an LTE platform at 15 sites. By using the same 4G technology as mobile carriers, we will benefit from economies of scale for chip, device and equipment pricing as 3G networks around the world migrate to LTE."

LTE – the next generation

LTE, the next generation of mobile communication technology, enables the fast transfer of huge amounts of data in an efficient and cost-effective way, optimizing the use of the frequency spectrum. With increased speed and decreased latency, LTE is specifically well suited to machine-to-machine (M2M) applications such as smart grid.

Under the agreement between Ausgrid and Ericsson, Ericsson will provide equipment, software and services, and will leverage the Australian-based Ericsson Global LTE Competence Centre, and Ericsson's strong local expertise in network design, planning and integration.

"The utility sector is being transformed, as it simultaneously changes to meet new environmental and service challenges, and introduces new and powerful technologies," said Sam Saba, CEO, Ericsson Australia/NZ. "In particular, modern wireless communications based on carrier grade open standards is a fundamental requirement. Communications is the enabling technology for smart grids."

"As a global communications leader with extensive multivendor systems integration experience, Ericsson is well placed to partner with utilities as they transform their electricity distribution networks into smart grids," said Saba.

Ericsson is the world's leader in telecommunications technology and services and is leading the way in the rollout of LTE with services now operating in Europe, the US and Asia, as well as Australia.

Ericsson has been driving open standards and has had the highest impact on the released LTE specifications. Ericsson expects to hold 25 percent of all essential patents for LTE, making it the largest patent holder in the industry.

Customer Objective

Introduce smart grid by mid-2011 using available spectrum.

The flexibility to transition to mainstream LTE for wireless.

A common wireless network for sensor data and field workforce.

Ericsson solution

Design and roll out a multi-vendor wireless access network.

Integrate with existing OSS.

Deliver an LTE pilot as part of transitioning to LTE over

Customer Benefits

New processes that leverage smart grid/smart meters.

Better whole-of-life costs with the latest open communications standards.

Key points

Electricity utilities around the world are transforming their electricity networks into smart grids, and introducing smart meters. This requires the construction of advanced communications networks to monitor and control their energy infrastructure and subscriber meters.

In the past utilities used industry-specific communications protocols and equipment. However, the new communications networks are being built using mainstream telecommunications protocols and equipment. For wireless communications, Ausgrid has recognized that an important telecommunications ecosystem will be LTE, and has acted to take advantage of the wide range of cost-effective equipment that this ecosystem will deliver.

Customer profile

The Ausgrid electricity network provides power to 1.6 million homes and businesses throughout Sydney, the Hunter Valley region, Newcastle and the Central Coast areas of New South Wales. That network is made up of more than 200 large electricity substations, 500,000 power poles, 30,000 small distribution substations and almost 50,000km of aerial and underground electricity cables. The state-government owned corporation has been operating for more than 100 years, and today delivers energy to more users than any other distributor in Australia. It is also delivering one of Australia's largest infrastructure programs – an AUD 8 billion upgrade of the electricity network.