The Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) recently presented an analysis to the Federal Communication Commission about U.S. electric, gas and water utilities’ radio-spectrum needs. In the analysis, the UTC asks government officials for at least 30 MHz of dedicated spectrum in order to support utilities’ wireless network applications, said Jill Lyon, UTC vice president and general counsel.

The report updates an earlier analysis completed nearly 10 years ago, Lyon explained. Since the first report, the spectrum dedicated for use by utilities actually has declined, she said, adding that currently available airwaves are riddled with congestion and interference issues. Adding to the need for additional spectrum is the advent of smart grids that use wireless technologies to deliver electricity from suppliers to consumers.

Lyon said access to at least 30 MHz of dedicated radio spectrum will support wireless technologies that make up the smart grid and its applications, such as wireless metering and capturing electricity from remote wind farms. Currently, available spectrum is scattered across small band segments: land mobile from 50-512 MHz plus 800 and 900 MHz; unlicensed in 900 MHz; point to multipoint in parts of 900 MHz; and fixed service from 4-11 GHz. Lyons said there is no dedicated spectrum other than six channel pairs in the 900 MHz band for railroads that total just 150 kHz.

“We’ve got to start connecting data networks together in order to create the efficiencies that the smart grid will require,” she said. “Dedicated spectrum will help the industry do this.”

Lyon said the UTC also would like to work with the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration to determine whether the U.S. can use the same dedicated spectrum as Canada, which has allocated 1800-1830 MHz for use by the electric grid. The move would support interoperable data communications on the North American electric grid, she said. However, in the U.S. 1800-1830 MHz is a federal-only band.

“So, what we are trying to find out is who in the federal government may be using this spectrum—or if anyone is—we haven’t been able to find that out yet,” she said.

In addition, the UTC has called on the FCC to act on a petition (FCC RM-11429) that would provide secondary access to additional frequencies, Lyon said.

To receive a free copy of the report, e-mail the UTC at legal@utc.org.