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Interested in choosing radio technology for a new SCADA radio network?  Is your need high importance factor, mission critical or life safety?  Does your SCADA gear require serial or ethernet connectivity? 100 Mbps, 1 Mbps or 9600 bps?  These are key design questions and your SCADA data transport reliability is also a big part of the design.  In this section we will discuss the relationship between over the air data transport bandwidth and reliability of the data transport.  We will discuss SCADA strategy for monitor and control of our network such as DN3P or ethernet TCP/IP.   Cellular is a relatively new transport method being implemented in some SCADA applications, cellular can be made to work if there is coverage available in your service area, but there are some serious trade-offs that every SCADA manager / operator should be keenly aware of.   

Think SCADA over cellular is the 5G promise land for your mission critical network, consider the potential down sides.  Cellular infrastructure is an early target of nation state cyber warfare and even.  Cellular companies do a poor job of preparing individual cell sites in their back up power solutions, yet are dependent on power to operate.    The most concerning fact is that cellular carriers are not a private autonomous network.  With cellular you are dependent on a myriad of infrastructure that ma bell telephone operates 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.  Those in in the know are concerned, one example is here an
Article from Wired Magazine on Cyber war.

"In the beginning" SCADA then known as "telemetry" were all serial technology 300-1200 bits per second (bps) and bell 202 standard modems were the most common for the transportation of data.  These modems could be used to connect via radio link or those poor quality and very expensive leased telco lines.  Today we have a vast variety of communications technology at our disposal, but there are pros and cons of each to consider.  The vastness can cause decision overload too.  We use radio to communicate with distant remote probes in space and these radio communication paths are extremely long, so we know technology exists for the long distance line of sight radio paths.  For example; we are still in communication to Voyager 2 space probe at 300 million miles away from Earth.  Our SCADA projects have limitations; maximum antenna height, cost, and the aesthetics of the antennas profile often drive the choice of which radio communication technology we can practically implement.

Over the air bandwidth and range has an inverse relationship, the more bandwidth required the less radio range we can expect in the radio link to have.  The less far we can communicate. These larger bandwidth paths require less obstructions, this is evident in the license free radios that provide 100 KBPS or more typically, ethernet capable and in the license free bands of 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, 3.65 GHz and 5.4-5.8 GHz spectrum, these links can communicate several miles in ideal conditions, but require an almost perfect visual line of site between the antenna systems of the radios, for extremely short paths there can be some exceptions to this idea.  The FCC licensed 150, 220, 408, 450, and 950 MHz telemetry / SCADA channels are geared for up to about 50 KBPS or less of over the air throughput but have the ability to penetrate non line of sight paths of over 20 miles are achievable.

The way our host computer communicates with the remote infrastructure is part of the overall design, some protocols are radio network friendly and there for translate into more reliable transportation of data.  Protocols like DN3P are efficient and maximize the use of the communications technology provided to the network.  EtherNet/IP (IP = Industrial Protocol) is an unfriendly protocol and will require a very high bandwidth communications technology such as fiber or high bandwidth of payload data radios such as microwave backhaul.  Ethernet TCP/IP is a more radio transport friendly as it can be designed to operate with a lower over the air data rate which again relates to data reliability.  

The above information underscores the need for a savvy radio system designer to be consulted when a new SCADA radio network is proposed.  Experience is key and a design and test strategy is often the best strategy before building a mission critical SCADA operation.

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 25+ years of specialized experience and knowledge.  My company is often called upon assist consultants, controls system integrators, and the end users.  We are highly specialized with tools and talent for evaluating troubles with existing SCADA systems, selecting the best SCADA radio technology for new systems, and provide design of the RF paths, including infield radios studies.

My phone number, 954 961 2642
or email:  mark.lavallee@advantage-com.com

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