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LTE Operational Efficiencies Save Thousands for ElectriCities

"LTE offered enormous cost savings over our legacy copper connections. Digi was the logical choice for secure, reliable communication with our members’ meters and generators."

John Coates, EMS Application Engineer
ElectriCities services 90 member municipalities and 1.2 million customers throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

ElectriCities provides customer service and safety training, emergency and technical assistance, government affairs and legal services, and communications to 90 member municipalities and 1.2 million customers throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

ElectriCities also supplies management services to North Carolina’s two municipal Power Agencies: North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number 1 (NCMPA1) and North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA).

Business Challenge

ElectriCities maintains a complex network covering thousands of square miles, collecting data from a variety of meters and telemetry equipment in order to offer comprehensive communications and management services to its member utilities. The traditional method of installing copper 56k circuits to each site was cost-prohibitive and increased the risk of lightning strike damage. An alternative communications method, such as fiber optics, would reduce the threat of lightning strikes but still be prohibitively expensive and excessive for the relatively limited bandwidth needs of each site.


Generator and control cabinets house the Digi WR31 for generator control and the Digi WR21 for metering communications.

With the varied mix of meters in the field and a requirement for reliable and secure meter polling data communication, ElectriCities was looking for an LTE solution that was dependable enough to maintain a network connection for frequent meter reading, and flexible enough to support communications with Schneider, Itron, JEMStar and SEL devices.

The Digi WR31 LTE router from Digi International gave ElectriCities the right combination of both reliability and flexibility, achieved thorough VPN performance and HALT testing, backed by a 5-year warranty, via the software-defined multicarrier support that permits the same WR31 unit to switch between Verizon, AT&T and all other North American LTE carriers.


ElectriCities saved over $300,000 annually on telemetry charges by implementing Digi TransPort® WR31, an intelligent 4G LTE router, and Digi WR21, a compact and low-cost 3G/4G LTE M2M enterprise router, to obtain real-time data on substation meters and generators in the field. Additionally, ElectriCities found that Digi LTE routers maintained a more reliable VPN connection than the cellular modems they had used in the past.

The use of Digi technology resulted in savings in key areas across the network: yearly lightning strike costs were decreased by $20,000 per site by using wireless routers; while fewer man-hours spent trouble-shooting and repairing equipment, coupled with reduced maintenance contracts, resulted in an additional savings of $30,000 per year, per site.

Overall, ElectriCities was able to more reliably and efficiently supply management and communications services across a vast geographic area to improve and enhance delivery to member municipalities and customers.

For more information on the ElectriCities project, see John Coates' case study article in Power-Grid.com.

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