Nokia's new router aims to make smart grids smarter

Combining its expertise in IP/MPLS and wireless technology, Nokia introduces a router that can connect more devices to the smart grid.

Opportunities abound for powering the world's cities with cleaner, cheaper energy. Yet harnessing energy from windmills or solar panels can only go so far if those pieces of equipment can't communicate with each other or a control center.

Currently, many power utilities use narrowband or proprietary wireless communications, or simply leave remote devices disconnected. Meanwhile, the growing number of alternative energy sources "opens up a completely new scope of things," Houman Modarres, head of product marketing for Nokia's IP portfolio, told ZDNet.

"When you have windmills and solar panels all over the place, when you have people contributing energy back into the grid as well as using it, you can imagine how by several orders of magnitude, the number of devices out there increases," he said.

To accommodate the new field devices and energy sources putting new demands on smart grids, Nokia is releasing the 7705 SAR-Hm, a purpose-built LTE/3G wireless router. The router marries Nokia's experience in IP/MPLS infrastructure with its LTE expertise, allowing field devices to wirelessly transmit IP/MPLS traffic to substations with wired network infrastructure. Improved connectivity should enable new smart grid applications, like distribution automation and advanced metering.

The router uses Network Group Encryption to ensure its security, with both the hardware and software built with security in mind, Modarres said.

Nokia already has already worked with more than 120 utilities around the globe to upgrade their networks, and has a clear market opening for the 7705 SAR-Hm thanks to its partnership with AT&T. Last year, the two companies announced they would work together to build out private infrastructure with dedicated spectrum for utilities in the US. This router will be a key part of ensuring those networks meet their goals, and Nokia will be bringing early customers on board for trials over the next few months.

Along with power utilities, the company sees potential use for the 7705 SAR-Hm in sectors like oil and gas, mining or aviation.