IEC 60870-5: IEC 61850: IEC 62351: In-depth understanding


  • DNP3. 2010: Distributed Network Protocol standard for electric power systems communications
  • IEC 60870-5: Defines systems used for telecontrol (SCADA) in electrical engineering and power system automation applications.
  • IEC 61850: Design of electrical substation automation
  • IEC 62351: Information Security for Power System Control Operations (defines the security for IEC 61850).

Telecontrol protocols rely on features such as robustness, efficiency and interoperability to make them superior to older protocols such as Modbus, but this is at the cost of higher complexity. DNP3 is widely used in the United States of America, while IEC 60870 is used exclusively in Europe. These protocols are used for communication between control centres (SCADA Masters), Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) and Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs). The 'new kid' on the block, IEC 61850 is the future benchmark for telecontrol helping to make integration both at the master and subordinates standardised.


Take note

  • Telecontrol protocols must be robust, efficient and interoperable.
  • DNP3 and IEC 60870 have been extensively used in the USA and Europe respectively.
  • IEC 61870 is the newest protocol to be considered and is in fact a comprehensive standard for the design of automation systems.


Published as:

Distributed network protocols – the old and the new

DNP3, IEC 60870-5 and IEC 61850

By J Hoogenboezem, Supervisory & Control Expertise SA

Electricity+Control, November 2012 (pages 16 - 26)