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Electric utilities and First Responders: Building a working relationship

While winter has a tight hold on most of the country for a bit yet, it’s beautiful weather in Orlando at the Utility Telecom Council (UTC) Region 3 Winter Meeting. We’ve been having pre-session discussions that have given attendees a solid understanding of spectrum related issues. A lot of discussions have centered on options of how to move forward as bandwidth and reliability requirements for electric utilities expand for fixed and mobile applications.

Our first pre-conference session covered the hand-in-glove relationship between public safety and electric utilities, hosted by John McClain, global coordinator at the Department of Homeland Security. John shared highlights of what public safety professionals have incorporated into the National Emergency Communications Plan (NEPC) to improve response to disasters. One points McClain drove home was the benefit of public safety and utilities working closely together to recover from those events. John also said his team would be very responsive to help utilities make connections with regional public safety leaders to improve interoperability and communications.

John Vislosky, a senior vice president at Access Spectrum, updated the group on how the lack of spectrum hampers the critical infrastructure industry, even as electric utilities face increasing requirements to improve operations. John shared how purchasing spectrum from secondary markets like the Upper 700 A Block from Access Spectrum is a simple and affordable solution to address that issue, adding that utilities such as Salt River Project are looking to integrate into their communications plan to improve operational efficiency.

Vislosky also gave an overview of the proof of concept testing done onsite in Arizona with Salt River Project. More than 20 manufacturers indicated interest, with Walker & Associates, ConVergence Technologies and MemoryLink being selected for the test. Vislosky emphasized the test included range, bandwidth, multipoint and Verizon co-interference testing. He also outlined various commercial UAV applications on the 700 MHz Spectrum

Finally, Brett Kilbourne, UTC vice president of Government Affairs and Deputy General Council, gave an update on FirstNet, 700MHz and Emergency Communications. He covered background on the budding relationship with FirstNet and proposed recommendations from UTC on behalf of the critical infrastructure industry. Kilbourne also shared concerns of public safety groups related to maintaining their ability to preemptively secondary users.

Through his presentation, Kilbourne shared that LTE has the ability to manage priority, and it would be preferred that utilities be identified as public safety for specific applications. He wrapped up his presentation with an overview of the 700MHz A Band, and discussed how UTC was taking an active role to help promote the use of the 700Mhz A Band for critical infrastructure communications.

About the author

Dan is our account executive in the Critical Infrastructure market and has more than 35 years of providing customer-driven technology and energy solutions to critical infrastructure operators in the United States and Canada. He focuses on critical intelligent infrastructure, from smart grids to communications connections, and how they are used as consumers become energy portfolio managers.