EnBW, one of the largest suppliers of energy in Germany and Europe, is transforming into a sustainability and innovation leader for electricity, telecommunication networks, electromobility, and smart energy solutions. Since 2013, the company has invested significantly in renewable energy and aims to be climate-neutral by 2035, thanks largely to digitalization.
Its subsidiary NetCom BW is responsible for the safe, smooth operation of EnBW’s communication network, underpinning its mission-critical operations. The network comprises 2,000 active nodes and approximately 6,500 kilometers of fiber and copper cables. It connects substations, switching stations, administration locations, and control centers and is operated independently from NetCom’s commercial telecommunications network.
Unlike commercial telecom networks based on internet protocol (IP), mission-critical communication networks rely on the synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) standard. “The technologies used so far were very reliable, stable, durable, and also backward compatible and for a long time, IP technology was unable to meet these high technical standards, especially with regard to stability and security," explained OPW team leader Claus Kugler.
In 2020, NetCom BW embarked on a project to upgrade the existing network to the IP standard, in support of EnBW’s mission to diversify operations and provide new customer-centric solutions. The project envisioned a shift to the Multiprotocol Label Switching-Transport Profile (MPLS-TP) standard, which is a reliable packet-based technology to support IP networks and aligns with the modern communication needs of organizations today.
After a Europe-wide call for tenders and a comprehensive evaluation of eight offers, NetCom BW selected Hitachi Energy for this major network modernization project.
“Hitachi Energy has proven experience in the area of critical infrastructure in the utility environment and is a strong technology partner with whom we can act on an equal footing,” said Nicholas Prinz, managing director of operations at NetCom BW. He added, “With the selected MPLS-TP platform, we are convinced that we can successfully take our network to the next evolutionary stage, in addition to fulfilling the expectations for secure operations. The new network will form the basis for new and innovative products and services in the area of critical infrastructure and will help NetCom BW continue to make a stable contribution to corporate growth in this segment, in the future.”
The evaluation included the setting up of a test laboratory at Biberach, with extensive engagement and involvement between the teams from NetCom BW and Hitachi Energy. This process helped validate the proof-of-concept and confirm Hitachi Energy’s technical proposal as the best suited for the project. The evaluation culminated in the signing of an eight-year framework agreement in January 2022.
“The selection of Hitachi Energy as the partner for this significant project, underscores the technical superiority of the industry-leading FOX615 and FOXMAN-UN solutions and its ability to meet NetCom BW’s exacting standards,” said Pascal Daleiden, country managing director, Germany, Austria and Switzerland at Hitachi Energy. He added, “The collaboration between the teams and the ability to develop tailor-made solutions and service offerings lays the foundation for a trusted and mutually beneficial partnership.”
As a utility-grade communication solution FOX615 provides a long product lifecycle, lower maintenance costs, and guaranteed performance in harsh environments and across a broad range of temperatures. The solution’s rugged build quality and low power consumption reduces the need for investments in air conditioning and batteries, helping to bring down the carbon footprint and operating cost of the network.
In addition to contributing to NetCom BW and EnBW’s corporate goals to operate sustainably and in an environmentally responsible manner, FOX615 enables a highly cyber-secure communication network. With the help of quantum-safe end-to-end encryption, the solution provides the fail-safe operations necessary to comply with the standards of the KRITIS Ordinance, applicable to critical infrastructure in Germany.
The project will include a service and maintenance contract as well as training on standards and on the products. The first nodes will be upgraded and commissioned in 2022 while the final phase of the roll-out will be in 2030.