html{display:none} COM 401: Data Communications Fundamentals | Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

COM 401: Data Communications Fundamentals


COM 401 is designed for engineers in protection, automation, systems integration, and communications and for consultants who specify, design, test, or use communications systems in operational technology (OT) applications. This course covers fundamental principles and usage of serial, radio, and Ethernet data communications employed in industrial and utility power systems. The course also covers fundamentals of major utility protocols, including DNP3, Modbus, Mirrored Bits communications, IEC 61850 GOOSE, and IEC 61850 MMS.

You will learn the terminology, concepts, and other information necessary to be knowledgeable in data communications. You will also learn the basic guidelines for the design, integration, and use of data communications equipment, protocols, and systems.


Day 1
  • Communications Fundamentals
  • Modulation Techniques
  • Communications Media (includes an exercise)
  • Traditional Applications
  • Data Communications (includes an exercise)
  • Data Transmission
Day 2
  • Introduction to Message Switching (includes an exercise)
  • Geographical Classification (includes an exercise)
  • Network Architectures (includes an exercise)
  • Ethernet Communication Fundamentals
  • Software-Defined Networks (includes an exercise)
Day 3
  • Precision Time Protocol
  • Introduction to Protocols: SCADA Communications 
    (includes an exercise)
  • Introduction to Protocols: Other Communications
  • Introduction to SEL Protocols
  • Applications Using Mirrored Bits 
  • DNP3 Protocol (includes an exercise)
Day 4
  • Cybersecurity
  • Security Levels
  • IEC 61850 Overview
  • IEC 61850 GOOSE Messaging
  • IEC 61850 Creating Reports (includes an exercise)
  • IEC 61850 Digital Secondary Systems
  • Comparison of IEC 61850 and DNP3

Please note that this is not a hands-on course. Exercises are performed either with pen and paper or as part of the class discussion.

Course Objectives

At the conclusion of this course, students can:

  • Define the purpose of system integration and communications-assisted applications.
  • Describe intelligent electronic device (IED) data contents, data integration, and data consumers.
  • Identify device communications methods and topologies.
  • Define common communications protocols, including IEC 61850, Modbus, and DNP3.
  • Distinguish between serial and Ethernet networks.
  • Identify SEL best practices in configuring device communications.
  • Identify the advantages of networking multiple IEDs together.

For hands-on experience with data communication protocols and equipment, please consider the following courses:
SYS 407: Software-Defined Networks 
APP 3530: SEL-3530 Real-Time Automation Controller (RTAC) 
APP 3620: Sensible Cybersecurity Using the Ethernet Security Gateway  
APP ICON: SEL ICON Integrated Communications Optical Network 

Course Information
Course Base Fees: $USD2,400*

CEUs: 2.8
Available Courses
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
May 5–8, 2020

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories
901 Center Park Dr
Charlotte, North Carolina 28217

Additional Information:

8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. each day

Recommended Accommodations:

Homewood Suites by Hilton Charlotte/Ayrsley
1921 Ayrsley Town Blvd 
Charlotte, NC 28273 

Hampton Inn & Suites Charlotte-Arrowood Rd
9110 Southern Pine Blvd 
Charlotte, NC 28273 

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Course Requirements


A degree in electrical engineering or information technology or equivalent experience in data communications is required.

Course Preparation

Please check the General Course Information page for what you should bring to class.