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June 27, 20245 min read

Tait Talks: The Utilities Sector Prepares for a Communications Expansion


The utilities sector faces a unique challenge: balancing the growing demand for broadband data with the enduring necessity of reliable voice communications. As technology and spectrum availability evolve globally, private broadband networks emerge as a pivotal solution, offering utilities the robustness needed to support mission-critical operations and innovative applications. Today we explore the current state of the global utilities sector's communications, and how they are preparing for much needed infrastructure upgrades.


The communications requirements for utilities are similar to public safety and other critical infrastructure industries, which continue to evolve and expand. The need for broadband data is increasing, while the criticality of reliable voice communications continues to be a core requirement.

At the Utilities Technology Council (UTC) annual Telecom & Technology Conference in May, private broadband networks for utilities were a hot topic. UTC President Rusty Williams, who stepped into his new post earlier this year, has a long communications background in the U.S. utility sector. He is focusing the organization on leadership development through the continued sharing of utility industry best practices, technology options, and policies that have direct impact on UTC’s members.

From a global perspective, changes in the availability of spectrum and new wireless market technology developments continue to be the catalysts behind the proliferation of private networks for utilities and other critical communications sectors.


In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently approved rules to realign the 900 MHz band to allow for broadband services in that spectrum. Anterix holds much of the 900 MHz spectrum and has plans to lease or sell the spectrum to utilities for broadband services. In addition, the FCC auctioned Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) 3.5 GHz spectrum in 2020, and some utilities purchased licenses at that auction. Unlicensed CBRS spectrum is also available in the United States. 


China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are Asian countries with a high prevalence of dedicated spectrum for private wireless networks. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) counts more than 20 bands used around the world for private wireless networks with the 3.5-3.7 GHz bands used for the largest number of deployments.

Similarly, in Europe, spectrum to be specifically used for private wireless networks is available in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, among other countries. In recent years, the 450 MHz Alliance was formed to promote the allocation and use of the 400/450 MHz bands and licensed 4G/5G spectrum worldwide, along with growing and facilitating coordination of the respective ecosystem to maximize the benefits for its stakeholders. 


The proliferation of private LTE and 5G networks has affected the global utility market as well. Utilities are investing in the acquisition of spectrum to build their own internal broadband networks to support the growing need for resilient data and voice utility applications. Private 4G/5G networks offer numerous benefits including standardized 3GPP technology, security, reliability, and the capability to address many mission-critical use cases.


Utilities have long employed internal private communications networks to serve their customers, so it is no surprise that in a 2023 study by market research firm IDC, utilities were one of the top vertical markets deploying private broadband networks. According to a 2024 GSA report, more than 80 power utilities worldwide are deploying private wireless networks, and more than 80% of those deployments are with LTE versus 5G technology. 

Utilities are taking multiple paths to deploy broadband, with some in the U.S. making use of the Anterix 900 MHz spectrum, some purchasing 3.5 GHz, 2.5 GHz or other spectrum, and most using a combination of several spectrum bands. As is often the case in critical communications, one size does not fit all, so utilities are rightly determining what is best for their own requirements and adapting their plans accordingly.
The common thread is the ongoing need for mission-critical voice communications and plans for continuing LMR network investments alongside plans for broadband. In the U.S., utilities are moving forward with plans to integrate push-to-talk over cellular (PTToC) and mission-critical push to talk (MCPTT) over private LTE networks, along with interoperability with DMR and P25 systems. 

The communications use cases planned for private wireless networks by utilities varies from grid automation to smart metering to distribution automation to flood and weather monitoring for grid protection to field worker and fleet management. As more broadband services are rolled out, the use cases will undoubtedly evolve and increase. 

Private wireless networks bring their own sets of challenges. At the UTC conference in Mobile, Alabama, last month, executives discussed the issues they are working through as they plan for deployments. Beyond securing spectrum, utilities are facing challenges with cybersecurity integration, backhaul, merging several networks, adding equipment to tower sites, and finding certified and rugged devices. 

On the device front, the TAIT AXIOM Wearable was certified for use on the U.S. FirstNet nationwide public safety broadband network by AT&T, which utilities understand is a rigorous testing certification. FirstNet is also a network that many U.S. utilities want their workers to roam onto and to interoperate with. Interoperability between broadband and LMR is built into TAIT AXIOM broadband devices, including Vehicle Area Network solutions. And Tait’s new multiprotocol, multiband TP9900 portable radios provide interoperability between DMR and P25, offering another means of enabling communications between multiple organizations that use either protocol.

As your utility moves forward in its broadband journey, look to Tait Communications for solutions to alleviate your device, interoperability, and mission-critical voice challenges. Tait is a long-time expert in solving problems in these areas, and we would welcome a conversation about how we can help address specific issues your utility might be facing. Communicate your questions and ideas to

Blog authored by: Sandra Wendelken – Market Insights Manager | Tait Communications

Contributions by: Anthony Blyth - Head of Product Marketing | Tait Communications

Read the previous Tait Talks: New Zealand Manufacturing Facility Sets Tait Communications Apart



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