RAD Survey Throws Light on Key Drivers for Power Utility Communications

RAD, a global provider of Service Assured Networking solutions for critical infrastructure communications networks, has released the results of an extensive industry survey of major American electric utilities that was recently conducted on its behalf by the Newton Evans Research Company.

The survey provides a clear indication of the current trends and operational technology (OT) priorities of power utility operators.

The respondents were asked to specify the factors driving their investments in substation communication upgrades. Most (81%) said that worn out and unsupported equipment is the key driver.

Two-thirds (67%) also identified cyber security and NERC-CIP compliance as a key driver. Thirty-three (33%) predicted that leased line service sunset notifications by telcos would drive upgrades in the future.

While legacy TDM technology remains prevalent in uplinks that connect substations to the operational network, 32% of the utilities surveyed plan to migrate to packet switched networks (PSNs) within the next several years. Among power utilities already employing a PSN in their operational WAN, Ethernet is used three times more than any other technology.

“This landmark survey clearly indicates that legacy equipment obsolescence and migration to packet communications are major forces affecting this market,” states Ulik Broida, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at RAD. “While the majority of substation uplink connections today are TDM-based, there will be a growing use of packet-only connections rates of up to 10Gbps over the coming years,” he adds. “This is also evident from the importance that survey respondents placed on SCADA protocol conversion and SCADA firewall functions.”

“Cyber security and regulation compliance issues are also among the main factors that drive investments in substation communications and are considered the major challenges that have to be overcome in upgrading networks,” Broida concludes.