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California water utility taps Nokia for new infrastructure

Northern California’s Placer County Water Agency is the first water utility to announce an agreement with Nokia, which will transition the agency to an IP-based communications infrastructure. Nokia has more than 200 power utility customers, and the company’s global energy group landed the deal PCWA.

PCWA is the primary water resource agency for a 1500-square mile area between the Sacramento Valley and the Sierra Nevada mountains. The agency operates five hydroelectric plants producing roughly one million megawatt hours annually. PCWA supplies water for drinking water and irrigation to more than 200,000 customers.

Nokia will replace PCWA’s current communications infrastructure with a packet microwave network using internet protocol/multi-protocol label switching. The companies expect the new infrastructure to enable more effective management of power generation, water resources and water supply. Nokia said PCWA also wants to support video traffic on the same network used for supervisory control and data acquisition.

“Nokia has invested heavily in recent years on addressing the unique requirments of utilities for modernizing and converging their communciations in order to enhance operational efficiency, reliabilty and safety,” said Kamal Ballout, head of Nokia’s global energy segment, in a statement.

The contract also represents a new opportunity for Nokia’s SAC Wireless, a Chicago wireless site acquisition and construction firm acquired by Nokia in 2014. SAC Wireless will be responsible for the overall construction and deployment of the new network, including managing civil works such as pre-construction site verification, network design and engineering, installation and testing of towers, repeaters, shelters, backup power systems and overall project management.

For utilities, IP-based infrastructure is an important step on the road to smart meters, which have the potential to save millions of dollars for utilities and their customers. To date, smart meters have been deployed by primarily by electric utilities, because power for the meters is readily available. With the advent of low-power IoT solutions that can operate for months or even years without recharging, smart meters are becoming more viable for water utilities.

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