Study Finds Heavy Use of IP/MPLS and Continued Reliance on Utility-Operated Telecommunications Networks for EMS/SCADA and DMS Systems

The latest findings from the Newton-Evans Research Company study of control systems used in the electric power industry point to heavy reliance on IP/MPLS networks for wide area communications from substations and other field locations to central site control systems.

Reliance on IP/MPLS Networks
Sixty-seven percent of international respondents use Internet Protocol/Multi-Protocol Label Switching (IP/MPLS) technology for communication from the substation to the external host/network. Thirty percent use a mix of T1/E1 and/or SONET/SDH and packet networks. It is likely that MPLS-TP (Transport Profile) will see increased use in the next Newton-Evans control systems study scheduled for 2019.

Forty-nine percent of North American respondents use IP/MPLS network technology for communication from the substation to the external host/network. Thirty-seven percent use T1/E1 and 33 percent use SONET/SDH, followed by 27 percent who use Carrier Ethernet. Often, more than one type of network is used. Half of North America’s investor owned utilities in the survey continue to use T1/E1, and over half of them use IP/MPLS as well.

Reliance on In-House Networks
Sixty-eight percent of international respondents rely on in-house networks for communication from the substation to EMS/SCADA/DMS. Twenty-six percent use a mix of in-house and commercial carrier, but none of the respondents indicated total reliance on commercial carrier networks.

Fifty-four percent of North American respondents use a combination of commercial carrier and in-house networks for communication from the substation to EMS/SCADA/DMS. Thirty-seven percent rely exclusively on in-house networks, and 8 percent use commercial carrier networks only.

Among large North American investor owned utilities, 83 percent use a combination of commercial carrier and in-house networks to reach each of their substation locations, which typically range from dozens to hundreds of sites over hundreds or thousands of miles of service area. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of public power utilities and 56 percent of small utilities (rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities serving fewer than 50,000 customers) limit their operational telecommunications approaches to in-house managed networks

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