When it comes to wireless connectivity for smart grid applications, utilities have predominantly utilized unlicensed spectrum bands rather than acquiring licensed spectrum. The reasons are many: licensed spectrum is expensive, many existing smart grid solutions use unlicensed spectrum, and to date these solutions have done the job well. As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes pervasive, there are risks that unlicensed spectrum bands will become clogged. Data transmission may slow or become unreliable.
As such, spectrum ownership or other creative partnering or lease deals will become more attractive—or even critical—to long-term utility solutions. As with real estate, they are not making more spectrum. It always (eventually) rises in value and should be thought of as a long-term investment. There are many licensed spectrum options available to utilities—more than many may realize. And 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. As the world becomes increasingly connected, those with exclusive rights to spectrum will own an ever more valuable asset—one with the potential to become a real competitive advantage in the coming decades.
This Navigant Research report 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.
Key Questions Addressed:
- What are the advantages of licensed spectrum for utilities?
- Why will utilities increasingly need licensed spectrum?
- What is spectrum sharing?
- Which vendors own licensed spectrum for utility lease in smart grid deployments?
- What spectrum bands are available for utility lease or purchase?
Who needs this report?
- Utility regulators
- Communications infrastructure vendors
- Communications service providers
- Communications regulators
- Spectrum owners and brokers
- Smart grid solutions vendors
- Investor community
Table of Contents
Licensed, Unlicensed, and Shared Spectrum
Public Carrier Spectrum
Licensed Solutions Support Major Utility Investment
Owned Spectrum Options Are Many
Utility-Owned Spectrum Offers Better Security and Control
217 MHz-219 MHz Automated Maritime Telecommunications System (AMTS)
220 MHz National Rural Telecommunications Council (NRTC)
450 MHz-470 MHz
700 MHz A Block Guard Band
800 MHz Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR)
900 MHz Multiple Address System (MAS)
900 MHz Narrowband PCS (NPCS)
1.4 GHz (US)
1.8 GHz (Canada)
Third-Party Owned Spectrum Can Speed Time to Market
Shared Spectrum: 3.5 GHz: CBRS
There Are Multiple Appropriate Spectrum Bands for Private LTE
Spectrum Ownership Is a Competitive Advantage
Unlicensed Band Will Inevitably Become Crowded
We Are Not Exaggerating
To Do This, They Will Need Spectrum
Utilities Need to Take Advantage of Licensed Spectrum Options and Coordinate Efforts at Standardizing
New Business Models and Services Will Almost Certainly Demand Licensed Spectrum
Decide Whether to Own or Lease
Leasing Offers Ease of Entry
Ownership Provides (Better) Control
Coordination Among Smaller Utilities Brings Market Sway
List of Tables and Figures
- CINEI Eligible Markets
- Space Data Spectrum Sales to Energy Market Participants
- EWA/PDV Proposed Spectrum Reallocation
- CBRS vs. Traditional Licensed and Unlicensed Spectrum Licenses