OPALCO Adds 700 MHz Licensed Frequency to Grid Control Network

Today, OPALCO announced the purchase of a partitioned portion of the Vulcan Wireless LLC 700 MHz FCC license to add to the OPALCO grid control network, as well as a collaboration agreement with Vulcan Wireless to learn from the Co-op’s deployment for the benefit of other rural communities.

The 700 MHz license, the same that has been used for decades to deliver television programming, will increase OPALCO’s ability to keep in communication with crew members in the field, connect and monitor remote equipment and improve emergency communication for public safety first responders. In addition, OPALCO can use this tool to help improve telecommunications capability for the whole County, allowing homes and business to access OPALCO’s broadband network through high-speed wireless connections.

“This collaboration agreement was facilitated by the FCC with their adoption of the 700 MHz interoperability order, finalized earlier this year. We are looking forward to learning from this effort and finding new and innovation ways to bring high-speed wireless services to rural areas,” said Steve Hall, Managing Director of Vulcan Capital, the owner of Vulcan Wireless.

OPALCO is designing the expansion of its grid control network (also called the backbone or middle mile) to satisfy its automated electrical distribution system needs. With the acquisition of the frequency, the plan will include 17 pole locations county-wide for crew communication and emergency public safety communication.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with our public safety community and Vulcan Wireless in crafting this collaboration,” said Foster Hildreth, Assistant General Manger of OPALCO. “This is an excellent first step to solving this critical community problem and addressing key quality of life issues in San Juan County.”

Once the immediate requirements of public safety, field communications and grid management are met, OPALCO leadership will work to integrate wireless options into our Island Network broadband offerings and business plan in progress. As with the electric side, all end user connections would be provided at the cost of service so that only members who are using broadband services will pay for them. Stay tuned for more information on limited pilot projects by the end of the year. Updates will be posted at energysavings.opalco.com/islandnetwork.