Challenging decisions are often necessary regarding the technology for communications within substation sites and between facilities. The choices include wired Ethernet, fiber, WiFi, radio and cellular. Cost reductions and technology enhancements have made two way radio communications one of the most popular means for industrial communications today. Radio communications are utilized for connectivity in a range of mission-critical utility communications including automated meter reading (AMR), advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), distribution automation (DA) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA).
Within the radio communications genre there are two major approaches: point-to-multipoint network architecture using privately licensed spectrum signals; and a mesh network architecture using publicly available spectrum signals. ABB’s TropOS technology is an example of a mesh network system capable of intra-substation communications as well as network wide communications for programs such as asset health monitoring.