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Pioneering 5G for utilities: Band 106 standardization in North America

Pioneering 5G for utilities: Band 106 standardization in North America

The utility industry conducts mission-critical work around the clock, requiring advanced and future-proof network connections. These connections enable essential functions such as access to emergency services, remote monitoring and control of infrastructure, including power lines, transformers, and pipelines.

The first successful data call using Band 106 (B106) marks a significant step toward addressing the challenges of adopting 5G technology in private wireless networks for the utility industry.

What makes the first B106 data call so significant?

The global 5G market in the energy and utilities sector is anticipating remarkable growth, with an expected annual growth of 36.7 percent over the next decade, potentially reaching $18.9 billion by 2032 according to an analysis by ResearchandMarkets The B106 standardization, as part of 3GPP Release 18, is crucial for expanding the ecosystem of devices and chipsets that can support private wireless applications.

Pioneering the adoption of 5G, several players have facilitated the standardization of B106.  The first successful B106 data call, enabled by Nokia in collaboration with Anterix - the largest holder of licensed spectrum in the 900 MHz band (896-901/935-940 MHz) throughout the contiguous United States, plus Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico – marks a significant milestone in modernizing grid communications and securing a clean energy future. This collaboration is pivotal for deploying utility mission-critical applications on 900 MHz private wireless networks, which can send and receive large volumes of data over long distances. 

This major advancement in widespread 5G adoption is helping the utility industry overcome many challenges. Following a successful demo this year, B106 is set to be included in our Nokia RAN product release in 2025.  By incorporating B106 into Nokia's AirScale Radio portfolio, utilities can leverage a broader range of devices, particularly suited for grid automation and enhanced network security. It also ensures compatibility and seamless operation with existing and future network deployments, future-proofing utilities’ technology goals.

How can we assist you in overcoming deployment challenges?

Despite its potential to revolutionize the utility industry, 5G adoption has faced significant hurdles since its introduction in 2019. In the utilities space, the established presence of familiar wireless connectivity sources and uncertainties about the reliability and return on investment (ROI) in 5G networks has led to some hesitancy surrounding 5G adoption. Other challenges include:

Complex technology environments: The utility industry operates within a complex environment of newer and legacy systems, making the integration of new technologies challenging. Ensuring compatibility among diverse systems can slow down the adoption process. However, the seamless coexistence of legacy Band 8 (B8) and B106 devices within Nokia's AirScale Radio infrastructure offers a smooth migration path, ensuring efficient and compatible network deployments.

Costs incurred: Cost is yet another significant barrier to 5G adoption for utility companies. Deploying 5G capabilities requires substantial investment in hardware and software, leading many providers to proceed cautiously.  As technology matures and supports a wider range of applications, the ROI will become more apparent. Improved data collection and analysis will enable utility companies to monitor grid performance, detect anomalies, and predict maintenance needs, enabling more effective data-driven decisions.

Security concerns: The critical infrastructure maintenance conducted by the utility industry requires rigorous and reliable security measures. Concerns about reliability and cyber-attacks require extensive testing and community validation, contributing to the slow adoption of 5G by utility companies. As a standards-based technology, B106 data addresses these concerns by adhering to strict quality and security standards for private network connections.

How can we help you future-proof your investments?

The collaboration between Nokia and Anterix addresses utilities’ critical need for reliable and future-proof communications. Anterix provides a robust foundation for deploying mission-critical applications on private wireless networks, enabling utilities to cover extensive areas efficiently and support key applications such as optimizing grid performance and automating smart grids.

The Anterix Active Ecosystem promotes sustainable, future-focused communications by bringing together technology innovators such as Nokia, among many others. Anterix's partnership with Sequans to develop the Cassiopeia CA410 module exemplifies this effort. The multi-band module supports 900 MHz, CBRS and public MNO bands, allowing utilities to operate private LTE networks and seamlessly connect to public networks when needed.

By utilizing B106 data for network connection, utility companies can future-proof their investments and enhance network performance and smart grid management.  The adoption of 5G technologies, marked by milestones such as the B106 data call, sets a promising precedent for deploying resilient, secure, and efficient private wireless networks.

Nokia’s and Anterix’s efforts in B106 standardization are part of a broader strategy to facilitate 5G adoption in private wireless networks. This standardization ensures reliable and secure connectivity for various industrial applications. Through these initiatives, Nokia and its collaborators have positioned themselves as leaders in advancing B106 standardization, thereby paving the way for more robust and versatile private wireless network solutions in North America.

Interested in learning more? Watch our joint video on B106 for 5G or visit the Nokia or Anterix web pages for more information.

*Both Band 106 and n106 (5G designation) are standardized in 3GPP Release 18.

Reference: Global 5G in Energy and Utilities Market is Expected to Reach $18.9 Billion by 2032: Advantages and Growing Rollout of 5G Networks Drives Growth from PR Newswire

Jeff Pittman

About Jeff Pittman

Jeff is the Head of the Enterprise Market Unit for Mobile Networks at Nokia, responsible for Enterprise Radio Access Network solutions, Microwave solutions, and associated Services across the United States and Canada. Jeff oversees a diverse team of sales, pre-sales and customer delivery / post sales professionals who have complete end to end ownership of the Enterprise business. He brings almost three decades of comprehensive technology and telecommunications experience with Nokia, specializing in sales strategy, business performance, customer engagement, and product development.

Carlos L’Abbate

About Carlos L’Abbate

Carlos L’Abbate joined Anterix as Chief Technology Officer in February 2021 and leads the company’s technology and engineering vision to enable successful customer pursuit and deployment of 900 MHz private broadband network for utilities and critical infrastructure entities across the United States.  Prior to Anterix, Carlos was a member of the FirstNet Authority CTO organization where he was responsible for advising the FirstNet Authority executive team and board of directors in the areas of technology and product development, wireless standards, and network architecture.

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