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Tuesday, 23 November 2010 15:54

EnergyAustralia plans LTE smart grid network

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EnergyAustralia has contracted Ericsson to supply, initially, WiMAX equipment to support a WIMAX network for its smart grid rollout, but says it will later upgrade this to LTE.

The network will connect some 150 EnergyAustralia sites in Sydney, Central Coast and Hunter and will transmit data between 12,000 smart monitoring devices, up to 3,000 mobile field computers and 200 major zone substations. EnergyAustralia's Smart Grid, Smart City project covers five locations: Newcastle, Scone, Ku-ring-gai, Newington and Sydney CBD.

EnergyAustralia managing director, George Maltabarow, said: "We are now rolling out a WiMAX communications network and will begin trials of an LTE platform at 15 sites next year, with the plan to move to a full LTE network. By using the same LTE 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."

Under the agreement, Ericsson as prime integrator will provide equipment, software and services to operate the network at 150 sites. Ericsson will supply Airspan Networks' WiMAX equipment. Ericsson said it would "leverage the Melbourne-based Ericsson Global LTE Competence Centre, and Ericsson's deep local expertise in network design, planning and integration."

Earlier this year, EnergyAustralia signed agreements with both vividwireless and with Austar to acquire 7MHz of 2.3 GHz spectrum for its wireless communications network.

Colin Goodwin, broadband strategy manager, Ericsson Australia/NZ, told iTWire: "For the trial and for LTE EnergyAustralia is looking at different spectrum, which is the subject of commercial negotiations and I am told it is more likely to be FDD-LTE [the variant that wil be used by Australia's mobile network operators] and TD-LTE, but I suspect the amount of spectrum they get will impact this."

Ericsson is contracted only for the LTE trial at this stage and Goodwin said: "Airspan has trajectory to LTE and obviously Ericsson has LTE equipment. [What we use in the trial] will be resolved as we get closer to the trial." EnergyAustralia was unable to provide any further information other than to say that its LTE trial would run for six months.

Goodwin added "Their initial pilots and activities were around WiMAX and the tender we responded to was for WiMAX, but from what is happening in the market you can see that LTE is gaining the lion's share of the market around the world and that will lead to significant economies of scale and that coincided with their tender process, so they elected to build in a transition to LTE."

Ericsson said it was expanding its business in the utilities sector "to meet the growing demand for telecommunications services and technology." It named Acea, "Italy's leading water provider and second largest electricity supplier," and Endesa, Spain's largest electricity utility, as major customers.

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