Satellite communications offer flexible options for utilties

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Satellite communications offer utilities a variety of options for managing their service area in a way that is secure, cost-effective and reliable, according to a recent survey produced by the Utilities Telecom Council and iDirect.

While the main findings showed that more than 60 percent of utilities surveyed have begun using satellite technologies, more than 78 percent of those also expressed a need to learn more about how satellite communications can be applied and optimized.

"We realize that there is a need to educate on what modern sat solutions are for today," said Michelle Larsen, a program manager at iDirect. She noted that the some of the most common applications included SCADA management, smart meter data backhaul and the ability to service remote service areas.

Larsen also noted that utilities don't have to think of satellite technologies as an all-or-nothing proposition, but rather as something that can be integrated with existing fiber optics or radio systems.

"We really see satellite communication as being a complimentary technology that can work with whatever you may be using today," she said.

The survey data represents 71 utilities, which together serve 74 million electric customers in the United States. Southern California Edison is one utility that is working with iDirect to upgrade a satellite communications infrastructure that has been evolving for about 20 years.

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