GoingWiMax.com was granted an interview with Full Spectrum CEO Stewart Kantor. Full Spectrum sells FULLMax, a WiMax-like network. Though it’s not technically a WiMax network because it uses frequencies below those approved by the WiMax Forum, FULLMax is used to deploy smart grids for utilities companies.
1. Using WiMax at a lower frequency, how important will it be in helping governments and other utilities build smart grids?
Our position is that utilities need to operate their own private wide area wireless networks for the implementation of higher level smart grid devices (devices such as Reclosers, substation connectivity, etc.). Today, almost all utilities in the country own and operate private land mobile radio systems using low band VHF frequencies. Utilities need these voice-centric networks to manage their workforce during outages and emergencies including natural disasters. They are unable to rely on the carrier wireless networks for a variety of reasons including lack of ubiquitous coverage, unpredictable reliability and network quality of service designed for consumer needs. These same issues apply to the communications networks being designed for smart grids, especially once you are beyond metering. We designed our FullMAX system to work in low band licensed frequencies in order to minimize the cost of tower infrastructure and backhaul for a private wide area network. We are able to leverage the utility company’s existing tower infrastructure and backhaul. We can support mobile and fixed coverage up to 20 miles from a tower site vs. consumer based 4G systems which rely on low power devices with a range of 2 – 5 miles from a tower site.
2. How does the FullMax Broadband Wireless System help government agencies in emergency situations?
Our system is designed as a rapidly deployable private wide area mobile and fixed network. We use licensed low band frequencies with high allowable transmit power. This minimizes the amount of tower infrastructure and backhaul required. In an emergency, a governmental agency can install a base station at a single tower site and have a private wide area mobile and fixed coverage up to 20 miles from the site. Our equipment is designed to work up to 20 watts at the mobile or fixed remote radio. It can use any frequency from 40 MHz to 958 MHz (tunable over the whole range).
3. How do you see the wireless spectrum changing when building a smart grid?
Our radios can use any frequency between 40 MHz and 958 MHz. We designed the radio to cover a wide range in order to open up as many private licensed frequency opportunities as possible for the utility. Although we have several nationwide bands available, we can offer many additional geographic specific frequencies. Some of our customers intend to use one frequency for mobile data to the utility vehicle and another frequency for fixed data.
4. How does changing radio frequencies help utility companies?
The ability to change frequencies allows more bandwidth options by geography. Most companies design their radios for a specific nationwide frequency. With our equipment, we can operate in a minimal 200 kHz channel in any frequency between 40 MHz and 958 MHz. Also, as more frequency becomes available, the utility can simply retune to add capacity.
5. Why are mobile carriers not suitable for developing smart grid networks?
We believe mobile carriers can be involved in smart grid activities that are less mission critical (e.g. smart metering). However, many of the new grid applications require high reliability, low latency, support for legacy SCADA protocols and so on. Carrier networks often have inadequate or poor coverage, competing commercial uses on the network, inadequate power generator backup their cell sites, inability to meet national regulatory standards related to critical infrastructure protection, etc.
6. Where do you see smart grid building going? Is there going to be a large push in 2010?
There have been several gyrations in the smart grid market since 2008. When oil prices and energy input costs were spiking in May 2008, the pressure was being driven by the utility companies in order to ring all possible efficiencies out of the grid. The recession in late 08′ slowed things down a bit. Then the stimulus package brought new focus to the need and also the desire to minimize green house emissions. It is our opinion that as we pull out of the recession, energy input costs will start to increase again and this combined with the stimulus funding will fuel rapid deployment of smart grid functionality.
7. How do you see LTE being integrated with emergency services and building smart grids for cities?
LTE is a competing 4G standard to 802.16-e. It is important to distinguish between the standard and the operator. We are designing for private wide area networks using low band frequencies. We chose 802.16-e because it is the most spectrally efficient standard for private wide are mobile and fixed networks. We believe commercial wireless operators using LTE or WiMAX will struggle to meet the demands of mission critical applications.
8. What influence do you see General Electric having on smart-grid build outs?
GE will play a critical role in the deployment of smart grids. Their influence goes far beyond communications. We feel our equipment is complementary to GE’s equipment.
Photo Courtesy of GDS Digital