Spectrum ownership and creative deals are expected to become more attractive for long-term utility solutions, says Navigant Research

A new report from Navigant Research examines licensed wireless solutions for utilities, providing recommendations and an overview of 17 spectrum bands available. When it comes to wireless connectivity for smart grid applications, utilities have predominantly used unlicensed spectrum bands rather than acquiring licensed spectrum, in part because of the high cost.

However, as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes pervasive, data transmission may slow or become unreliable, prompting utilities to consider the switch to licensed solutions.

“While smart grid solutions that use unlicensed spectrum bands are readily available and have done the job for utilities to date, as more people and things become connected, there is a real risk of interference and performance degradation in unlicensed bands,” says Richelle Elberg, principal research analyst with Navigant Research. “Utilities should consider licensed spectrum options for a variety of applications today and to ensure network control and capacity availability for the longer term.”

Richelle Elberg

Spectrum ownership or other creative partnering or lease deals are expected to become more attractive—or even critical—to long-term utility solutions, according to the report. While networking investments are often driven by shorter-term rate case and regulator demands or specific application needs, licensed spectrum has advantages that will persist for utility owners (or leaseholders) for decades, providing those with exclusive rights a real competitive advantage.

The report, Accessing Licensed Spectrum for Future-Proof Utility Networks, covers the options for and case studies of licensed wireless solutions for utilities and provides actionable recommendations for utilities. The study provides an overview of 17 licensed spectrum bands available for purchase or lease for utility applications and discusses the use cases and rationale for utility spectrum ownership over the long term.

It explains the differences between leased and owned spectrum and describes emerging shared spectrum paradigms. The report also provides examples of utility spectrum purchases and discloses pricing trends. Private LTE options are discussed as well, including unlicensed LTE.

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