Xcel Energy turns to Anterix, Motorola Solutions for initial 900 MHz LTE deployment
Xcel Energy will launch the initial deployment of private wireless broadband using 900 MHz spectrum licensed to Anterix and network equipment form Motorola Solutions, according to Anterix President and CEO Rob Schwartz.
“Xcel is another big step for us, continuing the momentum from the Ameren announcement that we talked about last year,” Schwartz said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
Ameren’s recent deal with Anterix is a 30-year, $48 million contract that represents a significant commitment from the utility to building out a private LTE network on the Anterix 900 MHz broadband airwaves that the FCC approved in May 2020. Xcel Energy has a larger service footprint than Ameren, but the announced initial deployment does not cover the utility’s entire footprint and is not a long-term deal at the moment, according to Schwartz.
“It’s in one of their eight states, starting in Minnesota,” he said. “The impact for them, from a resiliency and security standpoint, is going to be tremendous.
“Before they do a full deployment, many of them [utilities] like to do initial deployments to really do their shake test, kick the tires, get to see how it works, and then go into a full deployment,” he said. “It also allows them to demonstrate to their regulators the benefits [of the technology]. That’s what we saw with Ameren, when they tested 15 different use cases and then moved forward on a full deployment.”
When announcing the Ameren agreement, Schwartz said that Anterix expects to announce at least one more large commercial contract. Schwartz said the initial deployment with Xcel Energy is not the referenced full-fledged commercial contract, but he expressed optimism that such a relationship with Xcel Energy can be realized in the future.
“We’re confident that the capabilities of 900 MHz low-band spectrum will be the obvious solution for Xcel for the long term,” Schwartz said. “They’re in eight different states, so they’re in eight different regulatory environments.
“There are decisions that have to be made locally in each state, as well as at a corporate level. We’re going through that process with them and are really excited to support this initial deployment.”
Tim Peterson, Xcel Energy’s chief information officer and senior vice president, outlined some of the potential use cases that the utility hopes to evaluate during this initial deployment.
“Xcel Energy is supporting our customers by introducing new technology that will enable several improvements,” Petersons said in a prepared statement. “The addition of tools in the future will give our customers greater insight into their energy use, help us respond more quickly to local power outages, and provide enhanced communication technology to support our field operations.
“This new telecommunications technology will provide a basis for new solutions, which can improve grid operations, enhance system security, and ultimately deliver a better experience for our customers.”
Xcel Energy will be using Motorola Solutions gear to enable these capabilities in two different spectrum bands. Motorola Solutions will provide its LXN 7900 LTE 900 MHZ fixed-infrastructure equipment that operates on the 900 MHz broadband spectrum, as well as its Nitro service that operates on 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) airwaves, according to a press release about the Xcel Energy initial deployment.
“We look forward to working with Xcel Energy as they catalogue the benefits of private broadband for voice, data and IoT communications,” Scott Schoepel, Motorola Solutions’ vice president for global enterprise, said in a prepared statement. “As utility operations become increasingly complex and the electrical grid ever more automated, private broadband will support the necessary data speeds, capacity and security, as well as the technology and analytics, needed to support modern and resilient utility infrastructure.”
Schwartz said that Anterix officials are excited about the Motorola Solutions system, as well as the fact that utilities and other critical-infrastructure partners that leverage 900 MHz broadband spectrum will have an opportunity to choose from a variety of vendors and network solutions.
“It’s a very elegant solution for those people who want to use the higher-power capability,” Schwartz said of the Motorola Solutions’ fixed infrastructure for 900 MHz broadband. “They’ve designed it so that, with this high power, it can be overlaid on existing LMR sites, because of the spacing. It’s kind of a natural extension, with Motorola Solutions being one of the largest providers of those LMR systems, to be able to then update them and overlay them with LTE.
“We’re excited about the expanding ecosystem, as Motorola … is actually coming to market here with a customer opportunity. We’re excited to work with them and that they’re joining the ecosystem that already includes Nokia and other major infrastructure vendors. To me, that’s the beauty of choosing LTE for your private solution—you have the breadth of world-class vendors like Motorola Solutions that allow choice. Motorola’s solution is unique, and there are other vendors that fill different requirements. It’s good for the customers to have a choice.”