Could Russia launch a cyberattack on the U.S. power grid? That concern has loomed since Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine on February 24, putting the two superpowers on the knife’s edge of a proxy war. And it’s just one of many reasons that utility companies across America are embracing private cellular networks to increase their cybersecurity and operational reliability.
Experts say those reasons go beyond security to include the need for 4G and 5G cellular reliability, since many utilities nationwide have moved toward “smart meters,” gas sensors, distributed energy resources, and other “modernized grid” assets that require wireless data collection.
Today, a new private wireless proving ground for utilities was announced by Stolkhom, Sweden-based Ericsson—and it will be located right here in North Texas, home of Ericcson’s North American Plano headquarters.
Global Utilities Innovation Center opens in Plano
Ericsson today opened its new Global Utilities Innovation Center at the company’s facility in Plano. The center’s operating lab and demo environment locations will allow utilities to engage with Ericsson and its partners “to solve real-world connectivity challenges,” the company said.
Experimenting with ‘mission-critical’ solutions
The new innovation center in Plano will help utilities experiment with solutions in a secure environment, says Koustuv Ghoshal, VP and head of Utilities, Energy & Industrials at Ericsson North America.
“Private cellular networks are principal catalysts for utilities in their digital transformation journey to address multiple use cases, and utilities can now leverage our Global Utilities Innovation Center to experiment with different 4G and 5G use cases and co-create with our ecosystem partners,” Ghoshal said in a statement. “We look forward to partnering with utilities around the world on their grid modernization journey.”
The new innovation center is integrated with Ericsson’s device testing lab in nearby Richardson, where energy utilities and their manufacturer partners can test the interoperability of their utilities field and IoT devices over mission-critical networks in a safe and secure environment, the company says.
Replicates an energy utility smart grid on site
The new center is a “fully functional end-to-end operational lab” containing a physical representation of an energy utility smart grid. That enables real-world demonstrations of end-to-end private network operations across the power grid—from generation and transmission to distribution to end-users.
“Utilities require mission-critical networks that have to be secure, reliable, and increasingly sustainable,” said Per Wahlen, head of business development at Ericsson North America, in the statement. “This center is a state-of-the-art facility where we can work closely with utility companies, exploring new 4G and 5G use cases and delivering end-to-end solutions. At each point, you can see the benefits of the latest generations of cellular wireless networks in enhancing security, resilience, and efficiency of the power infrastructure.”
A ‘learning platform’ in every direction
Ericsson intends for the new innovation center to be a “learning platform” for exchanging information and ideas between utilities, Ericsson, and the entire industry, the company says.
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