& cplSiteName &

UTC Telecom 2014: More Power to You

Jason Meyers
5/8/2014
50%
50%

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The general consensus among the technology vendors exhibiting at the Utilities Telecom Council's Telecom 2014 conference here is that when it comes to their communications needs, utilities are not unlike telecom network operators -- except that they are very, very different.

Utilities are indeed grappling with issues and surveying opportunities reminiscent of the mid-1990s telco era: They operate aging, outdated communications networks in need of modernization, and they realize that through network investment they can provide more advanced and automated services that will improve the customer experience and save costs.

They also share a modern-day challenge with today's telecom networks operators. As they implement services such as smart metering, they are flooded with data that can give them insight into customer experience and performance, which makes network management more complicated.

"The more complex their networks get, the more need they have to manage all the devices getting pulled onto their networks," says Steve Curcio, vice president of industry and society for Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC).

But while the technology considerations in question may be similar to the telecom world, the attitudes of utilities toward change are not.

"These aren't telecom carriers," says Mark Madden, regional vice president for North American utilities at Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU). "They are very dependent on things being very reliable -- the tried and true. Any time you suggest something new to them, they get nervous."

Despite that nervousness, technology vendors are attracted to this potentially multi-billion-dollar market sector because most utility companies operate multiple internal communications networks that are in desperate need of modernization. Utilities' traditionally TDM-based systems are increasingly bandwidth-constrained as they add more applications such as smart meters and substation automation to provide real-time information monitoring and control, boost electric systems reliability and give them faster service restoration capabilities.

"Old analog technologies don't support these applications," Madden says. What's more, he adds, many telecom operators are shutting down the TDM-based services, such as frame relay and fractional T-1s, that many utilities use, prompting them to migrate to IP-MPLS or Carrier Ethernet connections.

All these factors combine to make the utilities’ communications network transformation seem like something of a forced march, though telecom professionals within utility organizations do seem to recognize the need for change.

"Doing nothing is not an option -- the transformation has to be made," says Doug McGinnis, senior manager and networking engineer for Exelon, during a conference session on TDM-to-IP migration. Exelon is a holding company that owns utilities in Maryland, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. "I'm happy to see TDM go away, because it's going to drive implementation of these new technologies. We're going to save a lot of money -- we're going to spend a lot, but then we're going to save a lot."

RAD Data Communications Ltd. recognizes that selling network technology to utilities is not the same as selling to telecom operators. The company adapted its network offerings to appeal to utility people responsible for different functions, says Mati Epstein, RAD's line of business manager for utility and transportation. "When you come to a utility, you must know who you are talking to," he says. "The packaging should be different."

Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), for its part, also recognizes the opportunity to adapt to meet the needs of the utility sector. "They're very concerned about modernization, and packet optical is proving to be a good transition from their legacy core," says Malcolm Loro, director of industry marketing for Ciena. "As they implement things like smart grid and need end-to-end solutions -- that's when you see the telecom vendors getting involved. We're working with these guys to bring carrier-class capability to these new networks."

— Jason Meyers, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

(6)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
jasonmeyers
50%
50%
jasonmeyers,
User Rank: Blogger
5/9/2014 | 9:29:06 AM
Re: Utilitarian
I'd say so, yes. 
Ariella
50%
50%
Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/9/2014 | 9:25:21 AM
Re: Utilitarian
@jason so we can be somewhat optimistic about the prospect.
jasonmeyers
50%
50%
jasonmeyers,
User Rank: Blogger
5/9/2014 | 9:21:14 AM
Re: Utilitarian
Areiella, I think it's just a matter of time, and the utilities seeing proof that packet technologies can meet their needs. We'll continue to dig in and present all sides of the debate. 
Ariella
50%
50%
Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/8/2014 | 2:37:28 PM
Re: Utilitarian
@jason do you have your own opinon on the debate over IP readiness? 
jasonmeyers
50%
50%
jasonmeyers,
User Rank: Blogger
5/8/2014 | 1:05:50 PM
Re: Utilitarian
Thanks Dennis. It's also interesting to note that some of the utility telecom people are still wary of packet-based technologies for certain critical, latency-sensitive functions. Doug McGinnis of Exelon said he will keep teleprotection links--which have to communicate within milliseconds to prevent potentially catastrophic system failures--on Sonet, because he does't think IP is ready to handle it yet. Others don't agree, and have already migrated teleprotection to IP. One of several technology debates in this sector.  

 
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/8/2014 | 12:15:04 PM
Utilitarian
Great overview, Jason. The sense I'm getting here at the event is that "IP transformation" will accelerate, in large part because legacy options (like leased lines) are going away. It's also clear that U.S. utilities are far behind their counterparts in Western and Northern Europe in this transformation.
From The Founder
Kicking off BCE 2017, Light Reading founder Steve Saunders lays blame for NFV's slow ramp-up and urges telecom to return to old-fashioned standards building and interoperability.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Interviews
Masergy: It's Time for SD-WAN Options

6|28|17   |   03:09   |   (0) comments


Paul Ruelas, director of network products for Masergy, explains how adding SD-WAN has changed the service mix for his company's customers. In some cases, the change is incremental, enabling more granular customer control. Masergy's newest version, SD-WAN Go, gives up some of those controls for a streamlined version targeting mid-sized customers with the most ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Intel Ushers in the Revolutionary 5G Era

6|28|17   |   5:00   |   (1) comment


5G will bring job opportunities for women in telco and IT, as well as a whole new era of communications for consumers and industries of all kinds, says Caroline Chan, vice president and general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division at Intel.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX at ANGA COM

6|27|17   |     |   (0) comments


At ANGA COM 2017, Cyrille Morelle, president and CEO of VeEX, updates Alan Breznick with VeEX's new products and technology. This includes VeSion cloud-based platform for network monitoring, AT2500-3G advanced spectrum analyzer and MTTplus-900 WiFi Air Expert module. He also comments on DOCSIS 3.1 deployment and Remote PHY technology.
LRTV Custom TV
The Overall Objective Is to Win the Game

6|26|17   |     |   (0) comments


SCTE•ISBE's Chris Bastian discusses Energy 2020's success to date and the importance of a flexible approach that allows for changes in specific strategies in order to reach significant milestones.
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink: Let's Get Past SD-WAN Hype

6|23|17   |   04:02   |   (0) comments


Technology becomes a "shiny object" unless it's properly focused on solving business needs for enterprise customers, says Bill Grubbs, network solutions architect for CenturyLink. He explains to Light Reading why SD-WAN deployments have to be tailored to specific needs – and more.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Infinera's Sales Director Paints Tech's Big Picture

6|21|17   |   4:14   |   (1) comment


Shannon Williams, Infinera's director of sales, shares how she achieves work's many balancing acts -- between her role and the broader company, today and tomorrow's tech and more.
LRTV Custom TV
SD-WAN Innovation & Trends

6|20|17   |     |   (0) comments


Versa CEO Kelly Ahuja discusses with Carol Wilson the current status and trends in the SD-WAN market, Versa's innovation around building a software platform with broad contextualization, and the advantages that startups can bring to the SD-WAN market.
LRTV Interviews
Ovum's Dario Talmesio on 5G in Europe

6|20|17   |   02:16   |   (0) comments


At 5G World 2017, Dario Talmesio, principal analyst and practice leader on Ovum's fixed and mobile telecoms European team, explains the emerging trends amongst European operators as they prepare for 5G.
LRTV Custom TV
Putting Power on a Pedestal

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments


ARRIS's John Ulm says a major accomplishment of SCTE•ISBE's Energy 2020 program is increased focus on power cost and consumption, including inclusion of energy requirements in operators' RFPs and RFIs.
LRTV Custom TV
Gigabit Access: The Last-Mile Pipe for All Future Services

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments


A Gigabit access platform being deployed today must be able to deliver all types of services to an increasing number of devices. A non-blocking architecture is necessary to support the ever-increasing growth in bandwidth demand. The Huawei Gigabit access solution is based on a distributed design that is fully scalable to deliver a unprecedented performance.
LRTV Custom TV
Key Factors to Successfully Deploy an SD-WAN Service

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments


As service providers transition their SD-WAN solution from trials and limited deployments into production at large scale, there are important considerations to successfully operationalize these solutions and realize their full potential, without adding complexity, introducing uncertainty or disrupting current business operations. Sunil Khandekar, CEO and Founder ...
LRTV Custom TV
IoT Solutions: Rational Exuberance

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments


IoT solutions are morphing from hype into viable business opportunities. Huawei has the platform and ecosystem support to help carriers successfully address new business opportunities in the IoT space.
Upcoming Live Events
October 18, 2017, Colorado Convention Center - Denver, CO
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, UK
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
No Imagination: UK Chip Biz Goes Up for Sale
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/22/2017
Does AT&T Deserve Time Warner?
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/23/2017
Hulu Is Greatest Threat to Pay-TV Providers – Study
Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation, 6/27/2017
Calix: Russo's Not-So-Overnight Success?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 6/28/2017
Verizon Takes 'One Fiber' to More Cities
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/22/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.