The US Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) is urging the Federal Communications Commission to take a page out of Industry Canada’s playbook when it comes to addressing the spectrum needs of utilities. In a report released last month, UTC calls on the FCC to harmonize its spectrum allocation in the 1800-1830 MHz band with Canada. The association says this band is critical “to meet the growing demands of voice communications, mobile data to personnel, fixed data including smart grid and AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) implementation, and vital security monitoring for those providing the most critical services to the public and the US economy.” In an interview with Report on Wireless, UTC VP and general counsel Jill Lyon lauds Industry Canada for leading the way in addressing the critical spectrum needs of utilities. “Canada currently is in a global leadership position in this,” she tells RoW. “From what I’ve seen, they’ve really been a model a regulator.” She says it only makes sense for the US to harmonize its spectrum allocation with Canada. The electrical grids of both countries are tied together, and while individual utilities are not yet interconnected, they will be in the future, she adds. Having a harmonized, nation-wide or even international band also created opportunities for high-speed interoperability across IP-based data networks, the report notes. As well, vendors making equipment for Canada would prefer a single North American market, rather than having to develop separate products for each country. Cross border assistance is another reason for harmonization, according to Lyon. “That happens a lot where you have Canadian utilities coming down here to help with gulf coast hurricanes, and you’ll have American utilities coming across the border if any Canadian utilities need help with ice storms, blizzards and major power outages,” she explains. “To the extent possible it would be very helpful to have the spectrum harmonized.” Utilities in the US are suffering from a severe lack of spectrum. The UTC notes that demand from utilities for wireless bandwidth has grown in the past 10 years but that no new additional spectrum has allotted to them. The demand is being driven by security requirements, the need to monitor critical infrastructure and deployment requirements for smart grids. As well, UTC notes that recent legislation and increased state regulations mean utilities need more bandwidth than is currently available. “Therefore, the recommendation of this report is that critical infrastructure agencies providing vital services to this nation be allocated 30 MHz of spectrum to support emergency and dispatch voice communications and the extensive data needs of vehicle communications, smart grid implementation, modernization of aging communication assets and security monitoring of critical assets,” reads the report. “Utility communication spectrum needs has been a topic of discussion for some time and we hope the US will follow the Canadian lead, especially since the power infrastructure of the United States in general is overseen on a North American basis.” Industry Canada has consulted with utilities on the issue of allocating the 1800-1830 MHz band, but has yet to make a final decision. Doug Sward, the department’s senior director of engineering and planning, told a conference in Toronto last November that a decision on this was a few months away. The plan for this band is to allow utilities to use the spectrum for backhaul. However, this 30 MHz of spectrum wouldn’t be exclusive to utilities, but would be allocated to a specific use. While UTC waits for a decision here, it has been active south of the border clarifying its position and getting more information from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). UTC has to go through the NTIA because the 1800-1830 MHz band is currently allocated for government uses. Lyon says the process to get this particular 30 MHz of spectrum doesn’t look like it will be easy. “Anything below 3GHz these days is fairly prime real estate, so we didn’t expect it to be open and empty and waiting for us,” she says. “We’re working on this, we know it’s not going to be a quick and easy process, but we need to work around the various agencies, talk to , talk to the FCC, just see what we need to do to try to make this work for everybody.” Utilities’ need for more spectrum will become an issue in other parts of the world, too. Lyon says the European UTC counterpart is also starting discussions with the European Union on potential spectrum assignments for utilities.