San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) is asking the Federal Communications Commission for permission to see if a private LTE network can operate in the Citizens Broadcast Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum at 3.5 GHz in order to provide communications for applications such as wildfire risk mitigation.
Citing the recent deadly wildfires in California, SDG&E is asking the FCC for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to test the suitability of LTE-Advanced equipment operating in CBRS spectrum for providing communications related to a Wildfire Mitigation Plan. Nokia is listed as one of the suppliers of equipment, along with Sonim and Seowon.
SDG&E said the plan is multi-faceted, but a key component is to provide advanced wireless communications to support its Falling Conductor Protection (FCP) system, which when implemented will be able to detect a powerline that has failed and de-energize it before it comes in contact with the ground, thereby protecting life and property.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) earlier this year admitted its equipment had probably caused the catastrophic fire last year that destroyed thousands of homes in Paradise, Calif., and led to at least 85 deaths.
SDG&E explained in its STA application and supporting materials that its FCP system was initially developed using proprietary infrastructure, but in order to deploy it throughout its territory, an industry standard approach “would be beneficial.”
To that end, SDG&E wants to evaluate both the LTE infrastructure and the RF frequency to ensure that it meets its stringent technical and operational requirements.
In particular, the tests will determine if the 10 MHz or 20 MHz TDD channels will provide the coverage, capacity and latency required to support SDG&E’s mission critical utility applications while not causing any co-channel or adjacent channel interference to existing licenses. SDG&E said it will evaluate the channels as narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) using 200 kHz channels.
The plan calls for installing LTE-Advanced eNodeBs at five fixed locations in the Borrego Springs Valley, with each location having three “sectors” and providing overlapping coverage to assess performance of handover to support the mission critical communications. Tests will involve wireless connectivity to both fixed and mobile locations within a specific radius of each base station site.
SDG&E is asking for an operation start date of June 1, with an end date of Dec. 31, 2019.
Nokia was an early player in the CBRS space and has been involved in numerous trials. Utilities is just one sector that has shown interest in private LTE networks. Transport and logistics, manufacturing and smart cities are some other verticals.
According to Dell’Oro Group, fixed wireless access (FWA) will drive the lion’s share of the CBRS capex over the near-term.