ImageAlcatel-Lucent has launched a new network technology that will enhance communications for utility companies to make power distribution across an entire grid, for the first time, ‘smart’ – from power generation through to customer delivery. Alcatel-Lucent’s Internet routing technology will give utilities the ability to deploy a single, secure, reliable communications network throughout the electricity grid, supporting smarter power management.

In recent years, states and utility companies have started examining smart grid technologies as a means of improving service delivery, cutting costs, and maintaining grid security. The technology in this area ranges from what could be called the starter set – add-on sensors that give grid operators a general idea of how things are running and what might need repair, through to much more detailed grid technology that allows for real-time data and remote control capabilities, levering wireless internet. Many utility companies are now looking to upgrade to new IP/MPLS (Internet Protocol/Multiprotocol Label Switching) solutions to update their communications networks. IP/MPLS offers better speed, more bandwidth and two-way communication capabilities which can be beneficial, especially over large grids.

Until now, IP/MPLS has only been deployed in the transmission and sub-transmission layers of the power grid, which handle the distribution of energy from power stations to the substations. However Alcatel-Lucent has added new products to its range of 7705 Service Aggregation Routers (SARs) specifically designed to be deployed in the Distribution and Field Area Network (FAN) – the part of the network that distributes power to an energy supplier’s residential or business customers. This extends the benefits of IP/MPLS, including service consistency and management, across a utility’s entire communications network, making it smart from end-to-end.