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Now more than ever technology options for creating a radio connected SCADA system are vast. The intention of this site is to provide resources for those tasked with designing, maintaining or operating a high importance factor SCADA system. FCC licensed, unlicensed and cellular technology will be discussed along with pros and cons of each. User owned SCADA radio networks often require initial design energy, this energy if spent well can afford the owner a very robust and exceptionally reliable communications network. Cellular based strategies have their place in the market too and weighing the pros and cons of each technology will allow the owner to make their best business decisions.
User owned SCADA communications networks can achieve minimal down time measured in minutes per year vs. weeks after a severe weather event, power failures, cable cuts, etc. The user owned SCADA radio networks are completely controlled by the owner and their maintenance organization, vs telco, cable, or cellular communications carriers. Private secure and autonomous data radio networks are not vulnerable to cyber-attack / terrorism or hackers, Article from Wired Magazine on Cyber War. Proper planning and control of your spare parts program can make a return to service as simple as replacing a broken part. Tornados, hurricanes, fires, and power outages often cause cellular networks outages, as site backup power is usually a small number of minutes, cell sites rely on wired telco infrastructure to create the cellular network backhaul connections that are required for operation. Commercial power availability is required for both wireless and wired connectivity as their (telco & cellular) backup power access is typically minimal.
The industry standard for designing SCADA radio links (both FCC licensed and unlicensed) is 20 dB of RF fade margin. This defines the additional radio signal that is designed into each radio link to insure reliability. What the 20 dB fade margin really means is that there is 100 times more signal than the minimum amount of RF carrier signal needed to reliably operate the radio link and transport your mission critical SCADA data on it. Decibels are logarithmic numbers and a little goes a long way to provide data reliability.
There are countless SCADA radio networks throughout the United States and abroad monitoring and controlling municipal water, waste water, flood water, oil & gas production, power grids, automatic meter reading, and much more. These mission critical radio technology based communications systems have ranges from yards to hundreds of miles. Selecting the right technology, defining the projects requirements, and creating a robust SCADA communications network is what I do as an RF consultant. Having the personal understanding of the pros and cons of each technology can empower the project engineer, owner or operator to make the best business decisions for a system that will have a 10-20 year service lifetime and are often mission critical or high importance factor operation SCADA systems.
Please browse this site, if you have any questions or a specific project you would like to discuss, please feel free to call on me, Mark Lavallee. I truly enjoy sharing my 30 years of specialized experience and knowledge. My company is often called upon assist design build consultants, controls system integrators, and the end users directly. We are highly specialized with tools and talent for auditing existing SCADA systems, selecting the best SCADA radio technology for new systems, and providing qualified radio network designs / in-field radios studies.