Utility Communications – A Hybrid Approach Is Smartest

A hybrid approach is recommended by ABB as the route to migrate to packet switched networks.
Published: Thu 29 Oct 2015

With the growth in Ethernet-based smart grid and other applications such as SCADA and teleprotection demanding data on a real-time basis, utilities are having to review their communication requirements and decide for their long-term strategy.

Mathias Kranich, Head of Product Management at ABB, says the company’s view is that a hybrid approach is the smartest. “In the telecoms world lifecycles are just a few years, but in the utility world lifecycles are measured in decades and so we see a hybrid solution bridging the old and new technologies as the optimum.”

Mr Kranich will discuss this topic in depth, drawing on ABB’s over 70 years’ experience in operational communication networks, in an Engerati webinar, Next generation operational networks – the smart way to packet switched networks (PSN).

Hybrid solution benefits

Mr Kranich points to a number of important technologies of today, such as SDH, IP/MPLS and MPLS-TP, saying that a hybrid solution allows the utility to run applications on either the circuit-switched or packet-switched networks, as appropriate.

“This means the old network doesn’t need to be thrown away, resulting in both CAPEX and OPEX cost savings. It also allows the utility to extend and upgrade their network easily and to transition applications when ready to do so.” Then full migration can be done when the necessary quality of service has been proven.

He likens it to the transition from traditional petrol/diesel vehicles to electric vehicles, saying that a hybrid vehicle offers the best of both worlds, especially in these early growing stages when there is limited infrastructure for the new EVs.

FOX multiplexer   

ABB’s solution to meet today’s utility communication requirements is the FOX615 multiservice multiplexer, which provides a combination of SDH (circuit-switched) and Ethernet (packet-switched) functionality.

“Our aim in designing this device was to produce a multiplexer that would fulfill the needs of real-time utility applications, while avoiding all the technology-imposed performance constraints,” explains Mr Kranich. “FOX615 provides a powerful switching engine for packet-based communication, as well as a two-stage cross-connect for traditional TDM (PDH/SDH) signals.”

He continues: “The integrated access and transport multiplexer function significantly lower opex and space requirements as only a single platform with sparse wiring needs to be installed and maintained. Further, integrated access and transport also makes the management of the communication network easier since all alarms report directly to a single network management system. This ensures easy fault detection and the fastest reaction times.”

Another important feature he highlights is backwards compatibility to ensure future-proofing of the technology, given the average 10-year-plus timeframe for a full migration.

To learn more about ABB’s approach to switching to packet-switched networks and to get answers to your questions on switching, register for the webinar.

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