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Home Choosing SCADA Radio Technology FCC License, License Free or Cellular
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The question of weather to utilize FCC licensed SCADA radio spectrum or to use the popular license free SCADA communications equipment or the new 5G Cellular is a challenging question.  There are many important design questions that must be considered before making a choice.  Questions like, network vulnerably, reliability, can I experience interference from other license free users?  Am I choosing best practices in the design process and implementation.  How long does it take to get an FCC license and how much does it cost?

It is our job as the RF based communications designers / consultants to know the answers to these questions.  We know the available SCADA / telemetry radio spectrum extremely well.  We know when license free is a good match and when it is not.  When a SCADA system does require a FCC license we have methodology that allows us to select the best frequency for the client.  A frequency with good co channel and adjacent channel characteristics, which SCADA radio bands of operation have crowding in which geographical parts of the country.  We couple real world, on site, spectral analysis with FCC Universal Licensing System database records to select the clearest possible radio channel available.    
Here are a few ideas we use when determining which option to use (licensed or non licensed).  A good place to start is to define the proposed SCADA radio networks current operating area while also considering any future area expansion that may be necessary.  Generally speaking if the operating radius is large more than about a one to two mile radius or difficult terrain exists, then licensed spectrum becomes increasingly attractive.  Licensed SCADA radio networks can be formed using central sites that communicate to remote sites up to 10 and even up to 40 miles from the central site.   Data bandwidth is another key factor, if you need to share more than 20 KBPS between your RTU's and the SCADA master (central site) then licensed free is where the greater bandwidth is available. 

License free radio networks generally utilize less power in the transmitter and associated radio path, they typically require stronger signals in the receiver to carry the wider bandwidth of payload data, and are limited in antenna system EIRP (effective isotopic radiated power).  There are many types of radios to choose from and technology selection can leave a designer with more questions than answers.  Having a unbiased third party filter through the manufacturers sales data can be a great assed when specifying a SCADA radio network.  

Think SCADA over cellular is the 5G holy land for your mission critical network, consider the potential down sides.  Cellular infrastructure is an early target of nation state cyber warfare.  Cellular is not a private autonomous network.  With cellular you are dependent of ma bell telephone and they are now your business partner.  Consider the number of devices that have to work flawlessly in order for your data to get through.  Tower site; power systems, microwave or fiber back haul communications circuits, and cell antenna systems, Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO); power systems, microwave or fiber back haul communications circuits, routers, internet infrastructure; power systems, fiber communications circuits, network routers and more.  All of this gear has to work to get your data transported.  It's also vulnerable to hackers both foreign and domestic and now your network is too.  

If you have any questions or a specific project or an application you would like to discuss, please feel free to call on me, Mark Lavallee.  I enjoy sharing my 30 years of experience and knowledge.  My organization is often used to sub consult with consultants, assist controls system integrators, and work with the end users directly.
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