Today is a new era in broadband communications, one where the distinction between wired and wireless is fast disappearing. Pervasive Internet computing is here. Smart phones are now common for even the most basic of users, and tablets, e-readers and netbooks are all connected to the broadband network through various protocols and technologies. Incredibly, some predict there will be seven to 10 Internet-connected devices per person in the United States within a few years, and many times that for commercial and industrial businesses.
The broadband network connects things — trucks, automobiles and fleets. It connects people to remote doctors and medical treatment. It connects books, magazines and content in surprising ways. The network connects televisions and soon energy-using appliances.
To pull off an interconnected future, the telecom and power-delivery industries need each other.
The Next-Generation Network
Transmission and distribution utilities already know they are in perhaps the most compelling position to take advantage of the transformation of the broadband communications network. Of course, the telecom and power-delivery industries need to collaborate if they are to jointly deliver real-time information on energy consumption and demand in homes, businesses and industrial facilities. How well this information is delivered and used is critical to the future of the nation's economy and health.
This is more than a matter of empowering individuals and homeowners to manage energy consumption with real-time data. Without a doubt, the next-generation utility communications network will change the way all of us understand energy and consume it. This new network will foster an incredible ecosystem of innovation, applications, services and human ingenuity that will likely eclipse the first broadband revolution back in the late 1990s.
A Call to Work Together
The telecom and power-delivery industries must work together to formulate a robust strategy to enable communications suppliers and network operators to respond to the changing technological landscape in a way that makes economic sense.
As president of the Telecom Industry Association (TIA), I am challenging the power-delivery industry to find common grounds to work with the telecom industry. We must each bring to the table what we do best if we are to move at the pace required to ensure the quality, reliability, security and sustainability of the utility communications network infrastructure.
We need to walk in each other's shoes to grasp how fiber, 3G wireless, next-generation industrial control systems and home automation network protocols will affect the nature of billing, data management and network operations. We need to grapple with the changing forces of the business and the underlying architecture of the network.
The power-delivery industry should work with the telecom industry on the technical and strategic business challenges grid operators, integrators and suppliers face with planning and deploying network infrastructure. The telecom industry is ready, available and eager to join utilities in building out the next-generation platform for smart grid on both sides of the meter.
The fast-developing communications network will affect all aspects of business in ways we can only begin to envision. Let us get together on standards groups and technical teams to set a mutually beneficial direction for smart grid communications. The telecom industry can partner to line up the appropriate suppliers, services firms and collaborators as utilities design, engineer and deploy what many believe is the next great broadband revolution.
As a first step to getting the two industries on the same page, power-delivery executives have been invited to challenge the telecom industry's thinking at the kickoff executive roundtable of the TIA 2011 Inside the Network Conference & Exhibition in Dallas, Texas, May 17-20 (www.tia2011.org). Both industries must work collectively and collaboratively to set the direction of grid communications and data management while seeking to ensure operational excellence.
Grant Seiffert (firstname.lastname@example.org), president of the Telecommunications Industry Association, oversees the policy, standards, trade show and marketing efforts for the information and communications technology (ICT) industry. TIA's member companies represent the entire supply chain of the ICT industry. Prior to joining TIA, Seiffert served five years with Senator John McCain.