The Utilities Telecom Council is hoping recent moves by Industry Canada, Canada's equivalent to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, in allocating a block of spectrum nationwide for the smart grid will influence the FCC in granting spectrum to utilities in the U.S.

Back in December, Industry Canada announced it would allocate the 1800 MHz to 1830 MHz band for radio systems carrying traffic exclusively for maintenance and management of the electrical grid. It is expected to release final rules for the spectrum soon.

Meanwhile, the UTC has been lobbying the FCC for spectrum in the same bands in the U.S. Such a move would facilitate an interoperable smart grid in North America. That spectrum, however, is currently encumbered by government users.

"That band is federal here, and we have been working with the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) and some federal agencies to share that spectrum under the federal spectrum-sharing initiative, but we have a ways to go," said Jill Lyon, UTC vice president and general counsel. "If it's not in that band, we want something compatible."

In 2008, the FCC designated 10 MHz of spectrum in the 470 MHz-512 MHz band as a Spectrum Sharing Innovation Test-Bed, which is intended to offer a venue for interested entities to develop techniques designed to enable the sharing of airwaves between federal government and non-federal radio users.

Earlier this year, the UTC presented an analysis to the FCC concerning U.S. electric, gas and water utilities' radio-spectrum needs. In the analysis, the UTC asked government officials for at least 30 MHz of dedicated spectrum in order to support utilities' wireless network applications

Lyon said access to at least 30 MHz of dedicated radio spectrum would 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 MHz-512 MHz, plus 800 MHz and 900 MHz; unlicensed in 900 MHz; point to multipoint in parts of 900 MHz; and fixed service from 4 GHz-11 GHz. Lyon said there is no dedicated spectrum other than six channel pairs in the 900 MHz band for railroads that total just 150 kHz.

"We're having trouble maintaining the reliability we have now, and we have to do more with less spectrum," Lyon said.

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