Myths about Satellite and the Smart Grid from iDirect

Source: iDirect

Utility companies are making significant progress in developing a next-generation communications network capable of supporting the smart grid and other critical applications. However, many utilities struggle with how to affordably and reliably extend this network to 100% of their territories, especially to remote substations and customer locations that are beyond the reach of primary networks. 

While an IP-based satellite communications system can provide utilities with the real-time data exchange, operational visibility and broadband reach required for a smart grid communications system, there are several common misconceptions about satellite’s capabilities, namely with: 

• Reliability 
• Latency 
• Cost 
• Security 

How do you dispel the myths? Let’s think about it.


Myth: Satellite doesn’t provide the necessary reliability that utilities need to run applications. 

Truth: Technological advancements have made today’s satellite networks very reliable and capable of providing four nine’s availability. 

Satellite is a very reliable medium, in part due to the arrival of DVB-S2 in combination with Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM). Outbound throughput is guaranteed even during inclement weather.
Unlike other communications technologies, satellite is a private network, which inherently makes it more reliable. 


Myth: Satellite’s latency is too high to support core smart grid applications such as SCADA. 

Truth: The difference is only a few hundred milliseconds and still low enough to meet the requirements of nearly every core utility application. 

To develop a smart grid you need precise monitoring of energy supply and demand patters, as well as real-time fault detection in distribution networks, no matter the location. 

Satellite’s latency, at about 600ms-700ms (terrestrial is a minimal 200ms or less), is suitable for nearly every satellite application, including SCADA, substation automation, distribution automation, AMI, voice and video.
To further optimize real-time applications, like voice, that can be affected by delay utilities can take advantage of the iDirect platform’s built-in, real-time traffic management and optimization features; these features allow you to reduce jitter by evenly spacing time slots across a shared platform and interrupt large data frames to prioritize voice traffic. This results in toll-quality telephony over a cost-effective shared medium. 


Myth: Satellite is cost prohibitive. 

Truth: Satellite offers utilities flexible options to own, manage and deploy networks with low upfront investment.
If you are a utility looking to reduce your upfront expenses, you can look into becoming an iDirect Virtual Network Operator (VNO). As a VNO, you will still need to purchase satellite equipment, including remotes and line cards, but you don’t have to invest into a hub or teleport infrastructure. You would instead share capacity in an existing hub that is hosted by a satellite service provider. 

We can help provide the flexibility to help utilities match their overall communications architecture needs. 


Myth: Satellite isn’t as secure as other technologies and can’t really protect the smart grid. 

Truth: Satellite is a highly secure technology that supports private networks and AES encryption, along with enhanced security features. 

A satellite platform configured as a closed network is private and secure. The Network Management System must authorize devices before they can operate on the network, which guards against outside attacks and makes satellite IP more secure than WiFi. In an iDirect-run network, all remotes have to be authenticated based on their physical serial number before they can transmit. Without this authentication, a remote will not be allowed to transmit or receive packets. 

A Smart Choice 

With satellite, utilities can reach every location they serve with 100% network uptime. The iDirect platform is simple to manage and can integrate seamlessly with other systems.

To learn more about the role of satellite communications for the smart grid access iDirect's informative video series and free industyr white paper here.

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