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Electric Grid Among the Prime Concerns for IoT Spectrum Availability

Randy Sukow

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Utility Worker

Many people may not be aware of it, but all around us the internet of things (IoT) is a massive presence in everyday life. A burgeoning set of connected devices and automated systems gather images and other data and move them around the globe over fiber and wireless networks. Businesses’ economic growth will be at risk without adequate wireless spectrum capacity to keep track of growing reliance on IoT. The FCC this week began an investigation into how much spectrum the United States will need.

“Already we are seeing IoT devices enhancing the performance and safety of our power grid.  We have IoT sensors monitoring everything from water levels in soil for rural agriculture to traffic in cities to reduce congestion,” said Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement (PDF).

“Industrial IoT (IIoT) unites assets, advanced analytics, and modern workers by using connected industrial devices to monitor, collect, exchange, and analyze insights to drive faster and better decision-making,” according to a draft of the Notice of Inquiry (PDF). “IIoT may be deployed as a standalone network or rely on a mobile operator’s network.  IoT-networked devices are used to monitor power grids.”

IoT is an essential component of the smart grid. The inquiry begins as NRTC is introducing private LTE (pLTE) wireless solutions for electric utilities. NRTC Mobile Solutions offers access to nationwide 5G wireless networks, which will facilitate IoT applications for rural businesses nationwide. Spectrum availability for both platforms and decisions on how to divide them between public and private bands could have significant effect on future rural business development.

The notice particularly asks for industry positions on whether the spectrum currently available is adequate to meet IoT needs, both for commercial networks and private industrial purposes. It also asks commenters to discuss the extent that unlicensed spectrum will play in future IoT usage. Also, the inquiry is seeking any potential regulatory barriers to IoT growth.

The Commission is accepting initial public comments in the inquiry through Nov. 1 and reply comments through Nov. 16.

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