Avacon Natur Leads the Way in Machine-to-Machine Communication
German energy supplier E.ON operates in more than 30 countries worldwide and serves 33 million customers. E.ON subsidiary Avacon Natur makes sure the company takes advantage of the latest communications developments to improve both the efficiency of the business and the services offered.
High on Avacon’s agenda was improving Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications within power plants. In choosing a solution, the utility needed to determine the best ways for a control center to communicate with essential equipment distributed throughout an area of more than 300 square kilometers. Various items of equipment also need to communicate independently of the control center.
Avacon had identified LTE mobile network technology as potentially the best communication method, but the utility wanted to see how LTE systems would deal with the unique challenges posed by the various locations in which equipment is housed. To find out, Avacon decided to conduct a Proof of Concept (POC) trial.
“We wanted to understand the scalability of the technology and show how much better the architecture of LTE technology is, when compared to GSM and Wi-Fi networks,” says Volkmar Behr, CFO, Avacon Natur.
Avacon obtained a license from the German Communications regulator (Bundesnetzentur) to use the 450 MHz frequency band and began to study several possible challenges for an LTE system.
Transmission delay was a concern. When sending data to the control center, the LTE system would have to transmit calculations and actuation commands in real time. Complex mobile networks normally have some degree of latency, but the LTE POC trial had to demonstrate that the latency was minimal.
Another issue was indoor coverage. Volkmar Behr explained that “A lot of our equipment is located in building basements. We needed to understand if our LTE system could bridge the distance to the base station in a reliable way and with no loss of data.”
The utility also wanted to make sure the system could handle large volumes of data coming over varying distances at the same time.
Using 4G LTE technology over the 450 MHz frequency band, Huawei created an operational testing area with a radius of 10 kilometers. The configuration had two components working simultaneously on the same spectrum: A Code-Division Multiple Access (CDMA) core and an LTE core. (Huawei was the first vendor in the world to demonstrate dual CDMA and LTE network core capabilities without interference issues.)
For transmitting data via a base station to the control center, Huawei used a Radio Access Network (RAN) architecture. Specifically, Huawei’s SingleRAN system supports the duel wireless services on a single network using a software-defined radio device that has a consolidated set of hardware components.
The POC test showed that Huawei’s LTE core handled all of Avacon Natur’s M2M communication issues in an efficient and reliable way. In addition to range, the test checked variables such as humidity that can influence wireless data transmission.
Further, as Jochen Kernchen, solutions expert at Avacon Natur explained, “We experimented with adjusting certain key parameters manually on one base station. As a result we are confident that if we were to deploy several thousand across a mountainous landscape, our engineers, together with Huawei’s experts, can adjust them automatically and remotely.”
Volkmar Behr concludes, “With Huawei’s invaluable support we have done our research and testing and are now fully prepared to take our clients to the next level.”