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Private Networks

New York's utility to test private LTE network with several vendors

The New York Power Authority (NYPA), the nation's largest state-owned power utility, is about to begin testing a massive private LTE network that it hopes to use for applications ranging from energy metering to flying inspection drones.

"NYPA is looking to build a 3GPP standards-based private LTE network to support its efforts to help modernize the electric grid in New York State. This secure and reliable network will support NYPA's efforts to enhance its operational and programmatic capabilities and leverage the benefits of evolving innovation in wireless equipment," the agency wrote in a filing with the FCC requesting permission to begin testing the network.

Listed in the NYPA's application is a wide range of testing devices, including basestations and antennas from the likes of Nokia, Ericsson and Air-Lynx, as well as routers from Encore Networks, tablets from Samsung and phones from Cat and Sonim.

The proposed wireless network will sit on top of a $153 million, 700-mile fiber network the NYPA is building across New York in a project scheduled to be finished in 2021. "This fiber infrastructure will provide the overall backhaul for the P‐LTE [private LTE] project," the agency noted.

An NYPA representative declined to comment on the topic beyond the company's filing with the FCC.

In its filing, the NYPA outlined exactly what it plans to use its private LTE network for:

  • Drone connections "to safely monitor and inspect NYPA generation and transmission assets."
  • "Workforce mobility applications."
  • Metering services and analytics of customers' energy consumption.
  • "Wi‐Fi telephony and Push‐to‐Talk (PTT) applications."
  • Secure communications for emergency management.
  • Unspecified Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
  • "Data transport to support NYPA's energy efficiency initiatives."

Like shipping giant UPS, NYPA said it plans to use 900MHz spectrum from startup Anterix for the effort. Anterix – which counts Nextel co-founder Morgan O'Brien as its new CEO – holds roughly 60% of the 900MHz spectrum licenses in the top 20 metropolitan market areas in the US. The company is petitioning the FCC to allow it to realign its spectrum licenses in order to offer that spectrum to companies like UPS and the NYPA for LTE networks.

As it awaits a ruling on the topic by the FCC, Anterix is trying to drum up support for its proposal by testing LTE networks in its spectrum with the likes of Missouri utility company Ameren and Delmarva Power and Light Company, a subsidiary of utility giant Exelon.

The NYPA joins a long and growing list of companies, government agencies, utilities and others looking to build their own private wireless LTE networks. Such networks represent an alternative to the public, commercial LTE offerings from the likes of AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Private wireless networks allow organizations like the NYPA to control the security, footprint and operations of their network – control they would not necessarily have over a commercial network.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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