Helping hands

If a utility is not interested in building out its own network for its smart grid and other network aspirations, they have the option of working with one of many service providers that are getting into the smart energy game. Along with wireless operators, traditional wireline and even emerging alternative network providers can manage the network supporting smart grid deployments.

Targeting mainly smaller electric cooperatives and independent phone companies, Pulse Broadband can not only build a FTTH network that it can also manage and maintain the network for smart grid and retail consumer services. Fresh with a $19 million broadband stimulus grant, Pulse is working with Missouri-based Ralls Electric Cooperative to construct an open access FTTH network that will be used for residential services, but eventually to support potential smart grid plans for the utility.   

Tantalus smart grid network"We can build Fiber to the home network with four homes per mile with a grant and do eight homes a mile and up without a grant with two traditional funding means," said Bill Shreffler, President and Chief Executive Officer of Pulse Broadband. "We found a willing market there to build fiber to the home and launch triple services via an open access network and at the same time it allows the cooperative to use the network for smart grid."

Of course, fiber is not the only way to conduct smart grid deployment. DSL and wireless are other options.

Qwest, for one, has advocated that it wants to work with utility companies as a partner. Last summer, Qwest launched a trial of DSL technology with a Colorado-based utility Xcel Energy in Boulder, Colo.

"Our trial was a proof of concept to demonstrate that yes a lot of utilities are using fiber and a lot of utilities are using wireless, but there is a play for fixed line communications infrastructure," Leo said. "We were able to demonstrate that the DSL can be a viable technology for future smart grid deployments."

Helping hands