Anterix has secured agreements with both Nokia and Motorola Solutions as it works to monetize its 900 MHz spectrum licenses by leasing them to utilities for private wireless networks. The company owns more 900 MHz spectrum than any other entity in the U.S., and has identified private networks for utilities as its primary business model.
Anterix will offer utility customers both of Nokia's private wireless solutions. The Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (NDAC) is the vendor's end-to-end platform, while the Nokia Modular Private Wireless solution lets customers choose which network elements they need.
Like Nokia, Motorola Solutions offers both radio access and core network solutions for the 900 MHz spectrum band. Motorola says its core network solution can simultaneously control the company's 900 MHz and CBRS radios. Many utilities use Motorola's land mobile radio equipment, which can interoperate with carrier networks and private LTE networks, Motorola said. Anterix said its partnership with Motorola will reduce both complexity and cost for utilities that lease its spectrum.
Anterix is already working with both Nokia and Motorola on separate projects. Nokia and Anterix are testing private LTE with Ameren in Illinois and Missouri. Motorola and Anterix are evaluating private LTE with Xcel Energy in Minnesota.
Kicking the tires
According to Nokia and Motorola, a lot of utilities are investigating private LTE.
"We see that constantly with utilities trying to figure out if they want to kick the tires, do they want to invest in ... an LTE network as an asset?" said Ken Rabedeau, head of Nokia’s North American energy business. "It starts with the use cases required by each utility and the total cost of ownership to deploy, operate and maintain a network that supports current and future grid modernization."
Motorola's Kreg Christoff, MSSSI VP and director at Motorola Solutions, agreed that utilities are still in the evaluation phase for the most part. "Every utility that we are engaging with is in the exploration or discovery phase," he said. "Some are much further along than others." He said operational efficiency and employee safety are the two goals he hears about most from utilities. His team talks to utilities about whether they are willing to take on the operation of a network, and about the upfront capital expenditures as well as the ongoing operating expenses.
Christoff said municipalities could start to support utility private network efforts as local governments realize how utilities can assist in smart city efforts. He said that utilities have IT expertise and fiber assets, both of which cities need, and that there is a growing interest in interoperability between utility networks and city assets.
The need for interoperability leads to standards. "Standards is the key," Christoff said. "The Anterix spectrum is going to bring a lot to the table ... There will be a lot more devices, and I think standards will start to formulate around those devices."
Christoff added that utilities can leverage their network assets by deploying intelligence at the network edge. "We've always been kind of a one-way grid and a one-way pulling engine," he said. "We've always gone out and pulled 10,000 devices. Can we do things differently with analytics? Absolutely."
According to Anterix, private networks are the answer for utilities that want to take control of their networks in order to add analytics, manage bandwidth and ensure resilience. Adding two top network equipment vendors to its team should help the company make its case.