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NRTC and Ericsson

Modernizing electric grid services with private LTE

NRTC broadens digital electric grid coverage and capacity with private LTE

Learn how the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) partnered to design a model private LTE network built on Ericsson radio technology to support a next-generation smart grid for its members and validated its viability in a trial with West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corp., which demonstrated the value of private LTE for smart grid use cases such as SCADA, push-to-talk, fixed wireless access, and narrow-band IoT.



Modern electric systems require advanced communications networks to enable many new applications, and NRTC is partnering with Ericsson to design a model private Long Term Evolution (LTE) network for NRTC’s members to support this new generation of smart grid applications and services. The model private LTE network developed for NRTC uses Ericsson’s radio, core, and network management technologies to provide a platform for advanced bi-directional grid communications. This provides NRTC’s members with the ability to customize and deploy a network to achieve secure, long-range wireless connectivity necessary to enable smart grid use cases for the digital grid and transactional energy. WKRECC and NRTC recently conducted a successful trial based on the model network that delivered dramatic performance improvements for WKRECC’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.

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“The Ericsson team came to us with a strong technical roadmap, but just as important they showed a deep understanding of the utility industry and cooperatives in particular.”

— Joe Walsh, Vice President of Smart Grid Advisory and Networks, NRTC

The challenge

The power grid is changing and co-ops need help to adapt by addressing challenges like:

  • Multiple purpose-built systems
    Co-ops often have separate networks for different systems (SCADA, AMI, etc.) making it costly and time-consuming to scale and deploy new technologies.
  • Limited in-house technical resources
    For many co-ops, it does not make economic sense for them to staff the technical resources in-house to build a network for smart grid solutions.
  • Difficult to choose the right technology pagination
    Complexity and rapid technology changes mean co-ops need help to choose the right technology solutions to best serve their members.
Female engineer on power plant with tablet and hard hat

The solution

NRTC partnered with Ericsson to design a model private LTE network to support a next-generation smart grid for its members. The solution includes:

Ericsson hardware

  • Ericsson Silicon – Ericsson Radio System
  • Ericsson Massive MIMO for large-scale 5G networks
  • Ericsson Radio Access Network (RAN)
  • Ericsson Private Networks
  • Mission-Critical Communications
  • Mission-Critical Push-to-Talk
  • Internet of Things Technology
Power lines connecting to transmission tower

Ericsson software

  • Ericsson Radio System Software
  • Ericsson Router 6000 Software
  • Ericsson-hosted Network Manager Software with CBRS Domain Coordinator
  • Ericsson-hosted Enterprise Core VNFs
  • Ericsson Push-to-Talk Application Software
“With private LTE, we’ll have a network that will support multiple smart grid systems for a fraction of what it would cost to expand just one system.”

— Justin McCann, Vice President of Engineering, WKRECC

The result

NRTC is enabling suburban and rural electric cooperatives to adopt a wide range of modern smart grid capabilities by providing them an affordable private LTE digital network that:

Brings true economic benefit to communities

The templated private LTE network will be a backbone for advanced digital services provided by NRTC to its members, enabling more resilient, reliable, and efficient power delivery to help households, businesses, and farms stay productive.

Strengthens grid reliability, resilience, and efficiency

A trial deployment of private LTE with one of NRTC’s member co-ops, WKRECC, delivered superior performance in SCADA grid application testing and will enable more advanced capabilities like distribution automation, which will improve reliability and resilience.

Supports multiple use cases on one network

Instead of a hodgepodge of special-purpose systems, each independently operated and maintained, NRTC members can run a broad range of smart grid applications and services across a single private LTE network.

Opens new opportunities for NRTC members

In the future, the private LTE network can provide WKRECC’s AMI system with 3MHz channel bandwidth on which to operate instead of the current 50kHz. This additional capacity will help the co-op improve both billing and outage management.

Delivers far-reaching impact across the industry

Having an advanced, software-upgradeable digital solution like the Ericsson private LTE network will enable all NRTC member cooperatives to pursue new, innovative smart grid solutions as they emerge.

cell tower from below
“I have no doubt we will have a positive impact on peoples’ lives in the future because of the digital network investments we’re making today.”

— Joe Walsh, Vice President of Smart Grid Advisory and Networks, NRTC