Although we are an energy company, not a single part of our jobs can happen without a robust telecommunications network operating behind the scenes. Our ability to capture and communicate the vast amounts of data coming through our smart grid is essential to every single one of our business activities – and our data needs are growing every day. Our telecommunications system is a complex and integrated complement of technologies, devices, equipment, facilities, networks and applications that make it possible to communicate effectively with customers and deliver high standards of customer service.
Having the proper infrastructure in place to support our evolving telecommunication needs to meet both current and future operational demands is imperative. Much like the aging grid, our telecommunications system is undergoing a significant transformation.
AEP operates one of the largest private fiber optics network of any energy company in the U.S. From collecting and transmitting outage updates to customers via our mobile apps to downloading real-time grid data in the field, this network supports everything we do. We are expanding the network to meet the data needs of an increasingly digital smart grid, our operations and our customers’ needs.
This is a 10-year, $1.5 billion initiative ($480 million approved so far), and we are in the third year of modernizing a system that serves as the backbone of the power grid and our business operations. Key benefits of these investments will be the creation of system redundancies to ensure reliability of the grid and reduce our reliance on third parties to maintain the infrastructure we rely upon so heavily.
The capital investment plan includes running new fiber along portions of AEP’s 40,000 circuit miles of transmission lines, a new 800-megahertz (MHz) radio system that is critical to communicating with crews in the field, upgrading network systems on dozens of facilities, improved cybersecurity protections and additions of system redundancies that allow rerouting of data during outages to keep the system running.
As the use of online videos increase, we need more bandwidth to support this business need. One example is the increased use of drone technology for maintenance and assessment of storm damage. Without a strong telecommunications network, the videos from those drones would not be available or would take a long time to download, making it inefficient. Read more about using AEP’s fiber network to expand broadband.