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Case study: Benton County Electric

Enterprise

Utilities company solves metering infrastructure connectivity in remote areas using BGAN M2M solution from Inmarsat and Network Innovations.

Benton County is in Northwest Tennessee, bordering the western branch of the Tennessee River and often referred to as the gateway to Middle Tennessee. Aside from the city of Camden, the only other largely populated areas are the agrarian communities of Big Sandy and Holladay.

The county’s electricity requirements are met by Benton County Electric System (BCES), whose 38 employees work to deliver power to more than 10,000 customers. BCES’s philosophy is to offer fair and equitable rates for all. To accomplish this, BCES began an initiative five years ago to install automated metering infrastructure that would collect meter data every 15 minutes.

The challenge

The county’s electricity requirements are met by Benton County Electric System (BCES), whose 38 employees work to deliver power to more than 10,000 customers. BCES’s philosophy is to offer fair and equitable rates for all. To accomplish this, BCES began an initiative five years ago to install automated metering infrastructure that would collect meter data every 15 minutes.

Having near-real time access to this data would allow BCES to better respond to customer needs, expedite engineering analysis, and provide holistic data of the electric system for a cost-based rate design.

The company would be able to remotely connect and disconnect services, monitor power outages across the county, and offer new services such as prepay. Moreover, reducing its reliance on manual meter checks with automated meters promised to save countless travel hours for BCES’s staff.

The company faced several challenges in rolling out its automated metering infrastructure due to the patchy and unreliable cellular coverage typical of rural and remote locations.

Scott Owens (BCES) explains: “We initially adopted a hybrid connectivity model for our meters, connecting our collectors on our fiber-optic network in certain areas, and private cellular networks in others. However, there were gaps in the network where neither of the two services were available or feasible, meaning that some isolated meters still had to be read manually, draining time and resources. We needed a connectivity solution that would enable us to fully utilise the integrated automated metering infrastructure.”

Related services

BGAN M2M

Connect monitoring and control applications in remote, unmanned locations with our BGAN M2M service.

Utilities

Delivering transparency, operational efficiencies and enhanced passenger and worker safety across the global supply chain. 

The solution

BCES set about finding the right partners who could provide a reliable alternative to their existing connectivity methods. BCES chose Network Innovations, a key partner of Inmarsat, and a leading provider of BGAN M2M satellite communication services.

Powered by Inmarsat’s global 3G L-band satellite network and optimised for lower bandwidth and throughput than the standard BGAN offering, with a minimum billing increment of 1 kilobyte, BGAN M2M provides a reliable, IP-based real-time connectivity service that seamlessly integrates into any network. It supplies a reliable, always-available service and connects monitoring and control applications in remote, unmanned locations, giving full visibility and management of dispersed assets across an entire operational area. “We listened to and fully understood Benton County Electric’s unique challenges and goals.

Our extensive experience working with BGAN M2M and designing solutions for the utility industry, ensured the project was a success”, said Eric Verheylewegen, Executive Vice President Global Land Sales, Network Innovations.

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