Matthew Boeding, Paul Scalise, Michael Hempel, Hamid Sharif, Juan Lopez

Toward Wireless Smart Grid Communications: An Evaluation of Protocol Latencies in an Open-Source 5G Testbed

  • Energy (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Control and Optimization
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Building and Construction

Fifth-generation networks promise wide availability of wireless communication with inherent security features. The 5G standards also outline access for different applications requiring low latency, machine-to-machine communication, or mobile broadband. These networks can be advantageous to numerous applications that require widespread and diverse communications. One such application is found in smart grids. Smart grid networks, and Operational Technology (OT) networks in general, utilize a variety of communication protocols for low-latency control, data monitoring, and reporting at every level. Transitioning these network communications from wired Wide Area Networks (WANs) to wireless communication through 5G can provide additional benefits to their security and network configurability. However, introducing these wireless capabilities may also result in a degradation of network latency. In this paper, we propose utilizing 5G for smart grid communications, and we evaluate the latency impacts of encapsulating GOOSE, Modbus, and DNP3 for transmission over a 5G network. The OpenAirInterface open-source library is utilized to deploy an in-lab 5G Core Network and gNB for testing with off-the-shelf User Equipment (UE). This creates an effective 5G test platform for experimenting with different OT protocols such as GOOSE. The results are validated by measuring two different Intelligent Electronic Devices’ contact closure times for each network configuration. These tests are also conducted for varying packet sizes in order to isolate different sources of network latency. Our study outlines the latency impact of communication over 5G for time-critical and non-critical applications regarding their transition toward private 5G-based OT network implementations. The conducted experiments illustrate that in the case of GOOSE packets, simple encapsulation may exceed the protocol’s time-critical nature, and, therefore, additional measures must be taken to ensure a viable transition of GOOSE to 5G services. However, non-critical applications are shown to be viable for migration to 5G.

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