California Water District Uses Wireless Mesh To Connect, Secure Remote Utility Sites

After exploring and trying alternative solutions for two years, the Otay Water District of Spring Valley in Southern California has selected and deployed Firetide’s  wireless mesh infrastructure solution for connecting Otay Water District facilities. The system was designed and implemented by Sage Designs Inc., a local SCADA specialist.

“We’ve achieved real speeds in the 100Mbps range utilizing 802.11n technology,” said Bruce Trites, network engineer, Otay Water District, Spring Valley, Calif. “To date, we have rolled the wireless network out to more than 12 sites, creating a mesh point-to-multi-point design that has exceeded our expectations.”

The Otay Water District has about 125 square miles of service area and 50,000 customers and has been in business serving customers for more than 50 years. Many of its more than 50 remote facilities, reservoirs, pump/hydro stations are in geographically isolated and non-densely populated areas. As a result, options for getting land method communications to these sites (T1, DSL, cable etc) was cost prohibitive, with some bids coming in as high as nearly $100,000 a month.

Otay Water’s goal was 30 Mbps plus to each of their sites, enough to handle SCADA, security including video surveillance, and local Wi-Fi access at each site for operators and staff. During a very difficult trial phase with another wireless vendor, they spent a year trying to get an acceptable bandwidth. Finally, they abandoned their original vendor and called upon Sage Designs in partnership with Firetide to provide a demo.

“We recommended Firetide for this project because their family of wireless mesh infrastructure products provide the best performance and reliability in the industry and are perfectly matched to meet Otay’s challenging requirements,” said Ken VandeVeer, Southern California sales manager of Sage Designs Inc. “Firetide MIMO product gives Otay the highest performance possible and Firetide’s non-line-of-sight radios are the highest performing 900 MHz solution bringing the benefits of mesh to utility applications.”

For some of the water well and booster stations where trees make it impossible to use the frequencies in 5 GHz, Sage used the Firetide HotPort 6200-900 non-line-of-sight mesh. These dual-radio units have one radio at 900 MHz and one radio at the higher frequencies. The 900 MHz frequency helps overcome obstacles such as vegetation and trees, and is used to send the data to higher elevations at the reservoirs. Once the 900 MHz link reaches the reservoirs, the second radio on the mesh node uses the 5 GHz frequency to send the data back to the control center.

“In these times of heightened security and lower budgets, utilities need a more economical yet reliable way to connect and secure their facilities. Acts of vandalism can cost the utilities hundreds of thousands of dollars and disrupt municipal services,” said Bo Larsson, CEO of Firetide. “Firetide’s Otay deployment demonstrates the breadth of our product line in meeting the needs of utilities, providing high bandwidth MIMO backhaul and none line-of-site solutions all controlled by the same Firetide management system.”

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