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Home | WiMAX Update | Vecima Networks, Broadband Evolution: Utilities and Oil & Gas

Broadband Evolution: Utilities and Oil & Gas

Robert Forget, AVP Product Management at Vecima Networks Inc, talks to InterComms about how the company is orienting itself to the demands of wireless broadband in the Utilities and Oil and Gas industries

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Q: Vecima has been at the forefront of delivering new applications in WiMAX. Where do you see the technology going and what areas are being under-utilised?
A: One of the largest confusions in the market now is the difference between fixed WiMAX (802.16-2004) and mobile WiMAX (802.16e-2005). As a company Vecima decided to focus on fixed WiMAX for fixed/nomadic applications and continues to actively develop the MAC feature set when most companies locked their 802.16-2004 equipment in order to focus on mobile. In most of the markets that we target, the fixed technology fits the application better than mobility. It has been pertinent that we can explain the benefits and pitfalls of both to all of our new customers so that they can make an informed decision as to which technology best suits their requirements. We are dedicated to supporting and continuing to develop our fixed platform to continuously improve and reduce cost for our equipment family. This allows us to focus on multiple verticals and create technology that is dedicated to specific use cases.

Q: With VistaMAX, you have a product that is designed to work with Utilities, is this a new or a key growth market for you?
A: The product itself is not new. We actually developed a 1.9GHz VistaMAX system specifically for a customer in Australia who has had it successfully deployed for a number of years. This equipment happened to meet the frequencies opened in Canada at 1.8GHz specifically for the Utilities market. We have been in the process of field trials and optimizations to better meet requirements for this market and are continuously improving the system specifically for this vertical market. The understanding is that having a licensed band for Utilities will speed the deployment of smart grid and smart meter projects and allow for a private network so that customers are not dependent on traditional telecom providers for mission critical communications. I believe that this is definitely a key growth market but I must also mention that due to the requirements and testing needs for Utilities, a conservative and detailed approach is needed to ensure equipment and network coexist.

Q: What are the key benefits to the Utilities, Oil and Gas, or electrical industries, etc.?
A: The fact that this market can now have a private network where they control not only the communication but also the infrastructure is key. With licensed spectrum they are able to guarantee connectivity in a way that was not possible previously. By decoupling their network from the consumer networks they are able to avoid monthly costs and have total control of lifecycle planning for capital costs and maintenance.

Q: Could you explain Smart Grid and Smart Meter?
A: This may be an over simplification but it can be more easily understood. Smart Meter is specifically related to communication to the meter at customers’ homes. In this case it eliminates the need for a meter reader and allows a Utility to provide real time usage statistics to customers. Moving forward in a Smart Grid set-up, the meters will also be able to communicate into the home and end devices, allowing control over HVAC, lighting, etc. This control can be used to prevent brown out scenarios during high usage times and also allow the customer to control their costs when they are not in the home. Smart Grid can also be used to monitor and control other points in the electrical network not tied to the home (reclosures, substations, security, etc).

Q: Is there a deployment that you feel has utilised the full benefits of VistaMAX?
A: Definitely a loaded question! I am going to have to say no. Our premise is that we can change the MAC and the hardware to meet the needs of the customer, so unless we have done a specific design for the end use case, there is always the ability to change the benefits to better suit the need. With this in mind I believe that we strive for continuous improvement where we meet the full benefits for each deployment but still have the capability to meet new needs as usage and deployment types change in the future.

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