Case Study: Chugach Electric’s Measured Approach to Migrating Teleprotection to IP/MPLS

Chugach Electric’s network migration began in 2010, when they first identified upcoming issues with their existing network, which consisted of end-of-life hardware and capacity bottlenecks. The migration was critical to ensure traffic across operations that covered an expansive footprint remained flowing and without any issues and to be also to evolve the network to enable allow future technologies, services, and applications.

All of these requirements had to be met without a major or disruptive forklift upgrade. The decision to use Aviat’s Eclipse hybrid microwave platform, IRU600 high power radios, and CTR routers was made because of several key benefits:

1. The ability of the Eclipse hybrid radio to natively transport TDM and IP
2. The scalability to enable layer 2 services and provide a pathway to IP/MPLS
3. The availability of extra high-power radios to help add more capacity without having to change existing antennas
4. Future extension to carry MPLS with the CTR 8540

Chugach, like all Utilities, carries “mission-critical” traffic and the most important traffic carried by utilities is teleprotection, which is very time sensitive and crucial. The key initial consideration for the migration of teleprotection to maintain its integrity by not burdening the transmission with latency so utilizing a product that carried TDM traffic natively was the desired option. The Eclipse product added an additional layer of benefit because it also offered Chugach the ability to transport Ethernet traffic and to add next-generation data traffic onto the network. This gave Chugach the ability to migrate legacy circuits, maintain network reliability and integrity and gave them a pathway to future transport methods.

The other key criteria pertained to additional capacity while ensuring a seamless migration and the use of the IRU600 allowed this. The network was upgraded to carry over 4x more capacity while using the existing antennas. This enabled Chugach a quick and simple way to upgrade and transition their network without the lengthy field work or the additional cost burden. These radios are also capable of operating with an extra high-power transceiver that can increase the transmit output power by as much as 7dB compared to the non-EHP version. This will optimize future capacity upgrades if needed.

Once the Eclipse and IRU600 radios were installed and the network was migrated to the new system, the addition of new services and increase in data traffic along with the foresight of newer data applications/services, raised the need for more robust routing of the data traffic. This led to the decision of utilizing IP/MPLS as the routing mechanism and enabling the network for many levels of growth. IP/MPLS is enabled with the CTR 8540, which will be overlaid to the Eclipse system. This overlay will again allow Chugach the ability to seamlessly migrate their traffic but also serve as seamless backup mechanism in case any of the traffic has to be reverted to TDM. This ensures the network is upgradeable but also resilient if the need arises.

The approach with Chugach Electric’s migration need was to provide a solution that could seamlessly evolve their current network, minimize the cost and time needed for the migration and to future proof the network as much as possible. Since this network migration started, the network has maintained its services without any issues, added ample bandwidth to handle legacy and new traffic needs and is scalable for even further growth of its users, services, and applications.

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