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Communication network modernisation for Loiste

Loiste Sähköverkko Oy (formerly E.ON Kainuu) is an electricity distribution company in north east of Finland and is part of Loiste Group. The distribution network consist mainly of 20kV overhead lines. The distribution area is mainly rural with many small urban areas separated by vast areas of forest.

Issues with old communication network of Loiste

The SCADA and other systems of Loiste had a legacy communication infrastructure to the outstations consisting of analogue radio links, PDH links, radio modems, copper wires and leased line connections – typically serial data communication. The network was built during tens of years using various technology. Many of the communication services were proprietary needing special skills, tools and spare parts. The technology was getting obsolete and spare parts and service hard to find or expensive to buy.


Evolving utility communication needs

As the network automation is increased also the need to improve data communication will increase - requiring fast communication, high availability data transfer and quality of service. The modern technology/services at the outstations and the smart grid require more capacity and connectivity. The move towards computerized resource management and electronic documentation need secure and reliable data communication in the field. Especially during power outages the field crew communication is important. At the same time the availability of operator mobile networks is poor – then a high availability private radio network is most valuable. Power quality and outage management need to be improved pushing the availability of the data communication services to new levels.

Joint planning workshops

In 2008 Loiste and Netcontrol called to a workshop to plan how to modernize and improve the communication network and how to consolidate/integrate many services in one common infrastructure – a Netcon ALL-IP solution. The project was planned to span many years and divided into subprojects.

Netcon ALL-IP

Pure IP based communcation with legacy migration capability

In Netcon ALL-IP the data communication infrastructure is a pure IP-based network. Services running native IP-interfaces run as is, while legacy serial data is tunnelled over IP via gateway servers or other converters.

Quality of Service

Quality of Service for each service is controlled at the edges of the ALL-IP network by the Netcon gateways. Data is prioritized ranging from real-time to bulk data ensuring transfer of critical operational data in all conditions.

High Availability

High availability of the network is built by redundancy and by connecting the data communication network into ring/mesh topology with automatic routing.

Data Confidentiality and Integrity

Data confidentiality and integrity is managed by encapsulating sensitive data in end to end encrypted VPN tunnels and by network segmentation.

Network access control

Network access and traffic is controlled by the Netcon Gateway firewalls.  Netcon ALL-IP Manager monitors the network devices, connectivity and routing status. Abnormal states are alarmed. Operational data of the network is stored in logs and history for later analysis and reporting.

The Loiste ALL-IP project

1- All data communication needs were identifed and classified

In the ALL-IP workshop the data communication needs were identified and classified. Existing data communication services to be moved/converted to the ALL-IP network was documented. New data communication services to be added to the ALL-IP network were listed and prioritized. Technology road map to be used in the ALL-IP project was studied. A business case of the ALL-IP project was crated and
approved. The ALL-IP project gives the utility a fresh start for the utility operational communication technology infrastructure, skills and future opportunities. Legacy infrastructure is phased out in steps and replaced with ALL-IP services as the ALL-IP backbone gets available.

2 - Limited pilot for the proof-of-concept

The ALL-IP project started in 2009 with a pilot POC project where the equipment’s were selected, the services planned and the pilot system built and tested. After the successful POC the ALL-IP project backbone network started. The project was divided into milestones of east ring, city ring, north ring, west ring and last but not least Netcon ALL-IP manager. The project consist of project management, planning, workshops, procurement of microwave links, fibre connections, leased IP connections, routers, switches, gateways and finally installation/commissioning of the ALL-IP network and services per each milestone.

3- Full rollout span over several years

The ALL-IP project spans over seven years as the network is built when not disturbing the distribution network operation and mostly during summer as in the winter it is not possible or it is very demanding. The ALL-IP project lives on and grows with new connections and services in the years to come - the bandwidth can be increased where needed by updating devices, connections added or replaced by fibre or microwave links, equipment reused in the network expansions/reconfigurations etc. The one common technology makes it possible – the ALL-IP solution. Legacy serial devices and applications can be migrated into the ALL-IP network and utilises until the end of their life-cycle.

The utility ICT services are consolidated in the Netcon ALL-IP network covering:

SCADA communication with RTU/IED’s
Serial over IP services for SCADA and other services
Condition Monitoring Data Communication
Secondary Station Monitoring and Control
RoIP – private Radio over IP
VoIP – Voice over IP telephony
Service and Maintenance connections
Automatic Metering (AMR) Concentrator data transport
Power Quality Monitoring data
Fault Recorder data
Office Connections
CCTV – video surveillance data transfer
Security/Access Control system data
Intrusion Alarm data
Fire Extinguishers/Detectors data
NTP time synchronization service
NMS - network management system data

Traffic prioritization

Prioritization of traffic will ensure transport of important messages while less important is slow or blocked. The capacity of the network may change due to weather conditions or rerouting of the network. Microwave links with adaptive modulation are able to keep the connection up but with reduced capacity where synchronous fixed speed links will drop the connection in bad weather conditions.

Multiple ICT services – shared common network

Quality of Services classes
High - Network operation services
Medium – Maintenance, Access control, VoIP, Private Radio
Low – CCTV, Office

Benefits of ALL-IP

Consolidation of data communication – all communication using one technology, sharing resources and costs
Standard network technology – widespread know-how, public tools, vendor interoperability, equipment and service availability, versatile security features
Variety of transport media – optimal choice of media, speed, distances, services
Free localization of services – flexible arrangement of network access points, maintenance, back-up, updates, security
Future Proof – the Internet standard, widely used and adapted, stable, developing
Wide Coverage – any place, any time, any binary data, wide choice of services
Legacy serial devices and applications mirgration into the All-IP network