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Reconfiguration of communication at Laborelec in Belgium

Service provider for monitoring power quality

Monitoring power quality is one of the many services that the Laborelec cooperative organization offers its customers. Laborelec, based in Linkebeek, Belgium, is a competence center for the production, distribution, and application of electrical power. It offers its key partner, Electrabel, its other partners (including distribution network operators), and additional customers specialized technical services both nationally and internationally.
Laborelec has an annual turnover of approximately €32 million and employs around 180 people.


Laborelec measures the distributed or incoming quality of the mains voltage on request from customers and generates reports taking special customer requirements into consideration. All voltage levels are measured: from low-voltage networks in residential areas (230 V) to industrial connection points and even high-current networks (150 kV).

This service is provided to the majority of Belgian distribution network operators as well as key partner, Electrabel, which offers this service to its industrial customers. These include not only major electricity consumers but also small consumers, for whom voltage dips, for example, can have cataclysmic consequences for critical processes within the company.


Laborelec uses a modem to read in the measuring data from approximately 600 energy meters in the field and over 500 energy meters for the low-voltage or medium-voltage networks of network operators once or twice a day. It takes around 10 minutes to measure each measured value. If there is an analog phone line in the measuring station, the data is read via PSTN. If not, the data is read in via the GSM network.

Laborelec recently reconfigured the entire communication structure for its main computer. The new system consists exclusively of DIN rail-mountable industrial modems from Phoenix Contact. The system is operated using two types of modem: PSTN and GSM. At present, 24 PSTN and 11 GSM modems are installed in the data collection center. 15 to 20 modems in the field are assigned to each of these modems, which establish a connection by means of a login session to download data – these are referred to as modem pools.

All modems in the Laborelec data center are supplied by means of the unique T-bus bridging system in the base of the modem. Thanks to the width of the control cabinet used, eight modems can be installed side by side. "From the outset, we've used the T-bus elements across the board," explains Laurent Cloosen, technical assistant at Laborelec. "If we want to add an extra modem, we click the modem onto the T-bus. Then we just need to connect the analog line and the RS-232 interface for the data center. The layout is really clear and modular."


One of the options the PSI GSM/GPRS modem from Phoenix Contact offers is a GPRS function. General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) is a service where data can be exchanged as small packets via the GSM phone network. Using this technology, the data is split into small packets, which are forwarded individually and then recombined at the receiver.

GPRS connection costs are based on the volume of data sent, not the connection time. Therefore GPRS modems can be connected permanently at no extra cost, without having to establish a connection first. Data exchange is started immediately.

At present, Laborelec is testing the digital exchange of measuring data via GPRS. Laurent Cloosen from Laborelec knows exactly why he chose modems from Phoenix Contact for the reconfiguration project: "Because of their user friendliness and their reliability. Phoenix Contact modems are extremely user friendly. The phone cables are easily connected using plug-in terminal blocks. In the event of faults, the LEDs on the modem clearly indicate that there's a problem. We can also easily determine the cause by plugging in a phone line on the front of the modem."

The central acquisition of measuring data from measuring stations that are distributed over a wide geographic area is an excellent example of how companies can automatically centralize, save, and use data for reporting.

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