Neoenergia chooses MPLS for smart grid communications

  • February 17, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

Brazilian electricity provider Neoenergia is investing in multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) technology to modernise its communication networks.

The project aims at providing more quality and agility to data communications, preparing the group companies for the expansion of smart grids.

Innovation is key for Neoenergia to continue improving the services quality for its 14 million customers in five Brazilian states. To ensure reliability and security in an increasingly larger scenario of data transmission, as well as being prepared for the demand that will be generated by the expansion of smart grids, the company has started a project to modernise the communication network of its four concessionaires – Coelba in Bahia, Celpe in Pernambuco, Cosern in Rio Grande and Elektro in Sao Paolo and Mato Grosso do Sul. The technology to be adopted is MPLS, which is more efficient for multiservice data routing.

“The digitalisation of the network and the operation itself motivates the expansion of our own communication network using this technology, which can transport all kinds of services with low latency and high speed,” said Heron Fontana, smart grids superintendent at Neoenergia. “The MPLS protocol is the most modern technology in data transport, and it will enable us to prepare our distributors for the management of the energy system in the DSO [distribution system operator] model, managing the electrical networks and new services to customers, besides allowing the integration of distributed generation and electric vehicles, for example.”

MPLS is different from traditional technologies in that it performs routing through labels, sending the data packets more efficiently. This technology reduces the need for processing and makes communications faster. It is a high availability, agile protocol, which can switch data between routes in up to 50ms, being therefore more suitable for the traffic of large volumes of data. Due to these advantages, it is used in the networks of the largest telephone operators in the country.

Other benefits for Neoenergia in using this technology are its versatility and scalability. With MPLS, the whole existing infrastructure is optimised and can be used for applications on operational technology, that is for electrical network and substation equipment, in addition to supporting corporate information technology applications.

“We will be able to become a service provider within the company, with different types of traffic and service quality,” said Victor Aragão, telecommunications supervisor at Neoenergia. “We will be able to add any traffic to meet the company’s needs, such as monitoring substations or IoT applications. MPLS allows for a more efficient management of the communication network, with greater availability and agility, which results in higher quality of operation and provision of services to customers.”

The technology also provides for more security in the transport of data in operational and corporate communications, as it enables the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) that protect the communication between source and destination with encryption, thus ensuring data integrity. The traffic capacity when using MPLS can increase up to ten times in relation to the protocols being currently used, going from 1 to 10Gbit/s.

The Neoenergia project has an expected duration of three years and will start in two of its distributors in the north east. The first stage, which should be completed by the end of 2021, foresees the implementation of the technology at Celpe, in the stretch between Recife and Caruaru, in the Agreste region of Pernambuco, and at Cosern, in the metropolitan area of Natal. Over the next phases, Coelba and Elektro will also benefit from the network’s modernisation.