Private LTE for all nuclear power plants in France – EDF sets Thales, Ericsson to work
Électricité de France (EDF) has appointed Thales and Ericsson to design and supply private industrial-grade LTE networks at all of its nuclear energy sites in France. The company has 56 nuclear power reactors in the country, and the stated schedule is to connect “two-to-four” plants per year. An evolution to 5G is only described as “possible in the long term” (although Ericsson included mention of a future 5G upgrade in its press quote).
The first deployment is at the Blayais power plant on the Gironde estuary near Blaye, in southwest France. The network, now live, is being operated “independently” by EDF itself. Ericsson said the rollout of private LTE networks to EDF’s other power plants is scheduled for 2021 at a rate of two to four plants per year. Frequencies in the 2.6 GHz TDD band (band #38, 2570-2620 MHz) in France have been offered to metropolitan businesses by regulator ARCEP; EDF has held a 10-year licence in the band (20 MHz) to cover the Blayais plant for some time.
EDF, substantially (85 percent) owned by the French Government, manages all 56 nuclear power reactors in France. Nuclear power is the largest source of electricity in the country, contributing around 70 percent of the country’s total electricity production, the highest percentage in the world. Only the US, with 94, has more nuclear power reactors.
Ericsson said the project, which goes under the name CONNECT, will bring mobile broadband connectivity to French nuclear sites, both in production and under deconstruction. The project is the biggest of its kind, the Swedish vendor said. “EDF is leading the deployment of secure private 4G networks on this scale both in France and internationally,” it said in a statement.
French network design and operation company Thales is leading the project, including to “guarantee the overall system integration and secure networking”. The statement noted: “Cybersecurity is a key element of this collaboration and has been integrated into every step of deployment.” Ericsson is providing innovative LTE radio and core network.
The project appears mostly to detail use cases requiring straight ‘mobile broadband’ connectivity, reliably delivered over private LTE infrastructure. “Enhanced connectivity… will allow employees and partners to have remote access to all business documentation, while also allowing support from back-office experts via secure terminals.”
However, the statement lists general industrial IoT enhancements to “site performance, maintenance, operations, and logistics”, and also hints at remote AR/VR style collaboration. It said: “It will also allow… remote access via secure terminals to all business documentation, while also allowing support from back-office experts.”
Bruno Suty, director of information systems and digital at EDF’s nuclear and thermal production division, said: “The project enables the integration of new use cases linked to the digital transition in our production units, including in the industrial field… The access and transmission of data in real time, including in nuclear zones, and the clustering of applications on a single terminal will considerably simplify the work of teams in the field.”
Åsa Tamsons, senior vice president and head of business area technologies and new businesses at Ericsson, commented: “Critical national infrastructure requires high-level performance and trust… Ericsson’s private network solutions are a robust platform that unlock huge benefits for industries with unrivalled security. Our networks allow for a natural upgrade to 5G, so we can keep innovating alongside EDF for tomorrow.”