The largest state public power organization in the U.S. received permission from the Federal Communications Commission this week to experiment with private LTE at 900 MHz for use cases ranging from IoT to drone inspections at a hydro-electric power plant.
The New York Power Authority has 16 generation facilities and more than 1,400 circuit miles of transmission lines, according to its FCC special temporary authority application. It received permission to operate one LTE site in Gilboa, NY, covering an area of 6.4 kilometers, and plans to work with 900 MHz license-holder Anterix (previously pdvWireless) to use the Major Trading Area (MTA) channels held by Anterix and interleaved Business and Industrial/Land Transportation channels as well.
“The energy industry is in early stages of transformative changes that are expected to dramatically alter the way electric power is generated, delivered and used,” NYPA said in its filing. “The grid must become more adaptable, intelligent, and agile in responding to the massive number of individual decisions made by consumers as they use and generate electricity.”
NYPA said that it has a strategic plan that includes the goal of becoming the “first end-to-end digital utility in the United States” and that building a “secure, robust and reliable Private‐LTE network to manage critical infrastructure” will help it achieve that goal.
NYPA seeks to build a 3GPP-standards-based private LTE network to support a number of use cases. It laid out seven, including:
-Drone technology to monitor and inspect its power generation and transmission equipment.
-Workforce mobility applications
-“Deep metering services” and analytics of customer energy consumption
-Voice over Wi-Fi and push-to-talk applications
-Secure communications for emergency management and restoring service
-Data transport to support its energy efficiency initiatives.
NYPA said that it is already working on a current project to install fiber optical ground wire across 700 miles of its transmission right-of-way. That fiber will provide the backhaul for the private LTE project. A lab proof-of-concept is already underway in the power company’s White Plains facility, and the STA was requested for a field pilot at NYPA’s Blenheim–Gilboa
Hydroelectric Power Station in North Blenheim, NY. The STA authorization is for two years.
The NYPA pilot is intended to “evaluate performance of a private LTE system to support a stringent representative subset of use cases” and confirm that broadband service with the needed capacity and latency can be deployed at 900 MHz using LTE Band Class 8 equipment, without causing interference in adjacent spectrum. The equipment itself isn’t experimental, since 900 MHz LTE equipment is approved for use in other global markets.
The testing will also be an opportunity to “determine whether LTE data speeds and capacity can support the important fixed field‐area functions
and applications that are currently conducted on narrowband systems or on legacy copper‐based circuits that may be de‐constructed,” NYPA said.
In its filing, the NYPA hat-tipped the FCC’s decision to modify the 900 MHz band and enable both broadband and narrowband operations; previously, the spectrum supported only narrowband operations. Anterix, which is a major license holder of the spectrum nationwide, had petitioned the FCC to make that change so that it could support private LTE networks.
Anterix has already participated in a proof-of-concept trial of a private LTE network for distributed electrical grids constructed at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Boulder, CO.