AT&T, Nokia partner to offer private LTE to utilities

AT&T (NYSE: T) and Nokia (NYSE:NOK) are working together to offer U.S. utilities the chance to use a licensed LTE network, thereby avoiding interference they might encounter in unlicensed spectrum.

The solution combines AT&T spectrum with Nokia LTE technology, covering utilities at times and places their own private networks can't. The companies say this gives utilities the continuity they can count on for critical grid applications -- and a network that evolves with the distribution grid of the future.

AT&T will provide licensed spectrum so utilities can establish their own Field Area Networks for improved communications in their operational footprint. In addition, AT&T will provide optional services that utilities can use to supplement their capabilities, such as infrastructure and security.

Mike Troiano, vice president, Industrial IoT at AT&T, told FierceWirelessTech via email that for years, the utility industry has been building its own private wireless networks, giving it complete control of its destiny. For most utilities, the missing link, however, is their private networks operate in unlicensed spectrum, which could be prone to more and more interference as billions of devices are added as a result of the exploding Internet of Things market.

Nokia and AT&T already have spoken with a number of utilities about their requirements, and "we are confident that this solution will meet their evolving and expanding needs," he said. "By combining a private LTE network solution, with additional support by AT&T's commercial LTE network – gives customers peace of mind that they have redundancy and flexibility."

Nokia's contributions include the LTE radio access network (RAN), virtualized enhance packet core (EPC), IP/MPLS routing technology and end-to-end management. Nokia also plans to provide dual radio modems that support the private LTE network and fall-back to AT&T's commercial LTE network.

The companies say they will help utilities migrate existing wireless devices and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) collectors to a private broadband wireless solution, improving throughput and reliability. It also supports micro grids, renewable energy sources and more to meet shifting market demand – "at minimal cost," the companies said in a press release. It's all based on standards-based LTE technology so it remains relevant in the future.

AT&T and Nokia expect to make the offer available in the second half of 2016. So far, this LTE network solution is targeted only at the utility industry.

For more:
- see this release
- ​see this Wireless Week story

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