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IEC 61850 communication networks and systems for utility automation is a standard for communications that creates an environment that will allow dramatic changes in the design and operation of substations. The paper describes the different components of such systems and the distribution of functions between the devices included in it. Multiple Merging Units communicating over a 100 Mb Ethernet with multiple devices and/or a central computer that receives and processes current and voltage samples with a rate of 256 samples/cycle allow the implementation of all typical substation protection, automation, control, monitoring and recording functions in a very efficient way. The concepts also allow to change the design of layout of the high voltage switchgear.