Significant changes are gaining momentum in telecommunications around smart grid for utilities of all sizes.
Whether you are an investor owned utility, municipality, or cooperative; the telecommunications required for any Intelligent Electronic Device (IED) or other smart device in your electrical network is becoming a crucial component in operating your grid. In order to deliver cost effective power, reliably and efficiently, as well as reduce costs and meet energy efficiency standards, a roadmap for your telecom strategy is a necessity. 

With the addition of smart grid technologies, grid intelligence moving to the edge of the network, and the ever-changing market in wired and wireless telecommunications, you may be asking:

  • How do I look to the future and predict the type of communications support I will need? 
  • What smart grid devices am I employing?
  • What are the physical connectivity and communication protocols required of my devices? 
  • How much bandwidth will the addition of these devices take? 
  • How do I secure my devices and data? 
  • How will I monitor, control, configure, and manage these devices? 
  • What frequencies will I need to utilize and how do those frequencies propagate? 
  • Should I use commercial carrier, build my own network, or use a combination of both? 

Through extensive interactions with our clients, we’ve found the best approach to answer these questions is through an in-depth assessment to analyze the current state of your business and network—then work with the utility to discover future additional requirements developing at your utility. With this information, gaps between the expectations of your telecom vision and the reality of what can be done and by when can be identified.

Through the process of working with our clients to achieve their telecom vision, we’ve developed the Smart Grid Telecommunications Maturity Model comparison to determine the current state, desired future state, and the resulting gap analysis specific to each utility. This information is then leveraged to develop a clear and actionable roadmap and business case to successfully design, fund, and deploy advanced telecommunications networks. 

The West Monroe Smart Grid Telecom Maturity Model takes you through the different stages of telecommunications infrastructure development: 

telecom maturity model


Working towards industry standards

  • Many key substations do not have teleprotection
  • Paper-based work orders for field workforce
  • Manual meter reading
  • Leased broadband circuits, microwave, <25 MBPS
  • Leased copper narrowband circuit or private copper pilot wire 
  • Wired voice and data
  • No support of non-utility devices 
  • No encryption or access control


Enabling the biggest benefits 

  • All key substations have fiber, pilot wire, power line carrier, or commercial carrier circuits 
  • 2-way LMR system/cell phone, mobile data for field workforce
  • Some AMR
  • One-way narrowband PMP (e.g., paging network)
  • Private broadband circuits, microwave, >100 Mbps
  • Narrowband communications over fiber, microwave, or licensed/unlicensed PTMP wireless-serial 
  • Secure Wi-Fi with VoIP; no support for E911
  • Use of smart phones/tablets video/pictures to aid job execution and asset history 
  • Link level encryption


Leveraging to contribute to application ROI

  • All key substations have fiber, copper pilot wire, or low latency microwave
  • Digital 2-way LMR with computer aided dispatch (CAD) system for mobile workforce with auto vehicle location (AVL) and crew optimization
  • AMR with some AMI
  • Two-way narrowband PMP
  • SONET (fiber or microwave)
  • Digital packet backhaul—fiber, microwave, licensed/unlicensed PTMP wireless 
  • Secure Wi-Fi with VoIP and network QOS support; e911 support and end-to-end private voice support to key critical facilities 
  • Use AMI system for non-utility device control 
  • Central access control and link level encryption


Driving business goals 

  • All key substations have dedicated fiber, shared use fiber, or low latency microwave, and are moving from PTP to ring technology
  • Integrated WFM and CAD that optimizes work order dispatch bring your own device
  • Full AMI for interval consumption
  • Two-way wideband (>150 KBPS) PMP or mesh 
  • Fiber & microwave MPLS or carrier ethernet 
  • Digital packet backhaul with DNP 3.0 with support for non-operational data 
  • Secure network Wi-Fi with centralized wireless LAN controller with coverage in offices and service centers; E911 and private voice to key sites 
  • Use of advanced long-range low bandwidth communications with >150 dB link budget 
  • End-to-end application encryption with central key management and encrypted peer-to-peer communication


Industry leading best in class

  • All key substations have dedicated fiber or dedicated microwave for teleprotection, multiple rings, and technology-differentiated redundancy
  • Integrated 2-way voice, WFM, and CAD that can be used across any smart IP device (smart phone, laptop, tablet, wearables), multimedia
  • Integrate AMI, consumption, demand, voltage for electric, into other systems such as IVVC/ DERMS/big data analytics
  • Two-way wideband (>150 kbps) PMP or mesh with IP, FTPS, HTTPS support for non-op data with optional redundancy for critical DA devices 
  • MPLS/carrier ethernet/DWDM/OTN
  • Digital packet backhaul leveraging IEC 68150, diverse, redundant technology 
  • Network Wi-Fi with support for roaming of voice and data sessions between private system and public LTE network; E911 and private voice to key sites 
  • Shared use of fiber/broadband assets for other companies/consumers 
  • End-to-end application encryption with peer-to-peer support, central key management, and intrusion detection/prevention systems (IDS/IPS) to the edge

There are several important questions you must address prior to developing your telecommunications roadmap, including: 

  • How will technology choices be determined and be supported over time?
  • What standards-based equipment is available offering interoperability down the road? 
  • How will technology impact the business operations and bottom line? 
  • What type of security and at what depth will it be needed for different applications? 
  • What is the organizational impact of implementing a specific technology option?

In addition, you'll need to understand the nuances of telecom strategy development including: 

  • Public carrier versus private networks 
  • Leased lines, fiber, and wireless networks 
  • The effect of FCC frequency realignment on future technology availability
  • What frequencies are better suited for the different types of communications required by your future network elements
To understand the optimal solution for your utility, a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis should be completed specific to technology and business needs and resources. Obviously, the outcome of this analysis will differ by utility, however, in our experience, owning and maintaining a telecommunications network has allowed utilities to support reliable, controllable, secure, and robust communications. With the increased need for communication to achieve grid automation, these additional requirements necessitate consistent and reliable communications, especially during critical periods when other forms and commercial carriers may have failed. Communication needs are key considerations to properly designing the solutions that fulfill your business case and support your network needs into the future.



Typically, over eight to ten weeks, West Monroe can partner with you to create your telecommunications strategy and roadmap. This includes a Technology Maturity Model-based gap analysis, technology and deployment roadmap, and business case to support your future telecommunications needs.



West Monroe will work with you to build your telecommunications strategy; business case summary and technology and deployment roadmap that are specific to your utility and operations. This business case will include a summary of the operational benefits, increased reliability, operational, maintenance and training costs, and overall business impact. Your telecommunications strategy and roadmap combined with West Monroe telecommunications consulting partnership will guide your organization through the steps needed to fill in the gaps between your utility’s current state and desired future state.
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