A communication infrastructure is an essential part to the success of the emerging smart grid. A scalable and pervasive communication infrastructure is crucial in both construction and operation of a smart grid. In this paper, we present the background and motivation of communication infrastructures in smart grid systems. We also summarize major requirements that smart grid communications must meet. From the experience of several industrial trials on smart grid with communication infrastructures, we expect that the traditional carbon fuel based power plants can cooperate with emerging distributed renewable energy such as wind, solar, etc, to reduce the carbon fuel consumption and consequent green house gas such as carbon dioxide emission. The consumers can minimize their expense on energy by adjusting their intelligent home appliance operations to avoid the peak hours and utilize the renewable energy instead. We further explore the challenges for a communication infrastructure as the part of a complex smart grid system. Since a smart grid system might have over millions of consumers and devices, the demand of its reliability and security is extremely critical. Through a communication infrastructure, a smart grid can improve power reliability and quality to eliminate electricity blackout. Security is a challenging issue since the on-going smart grid systems facing increasing vulnerabilities as more and more automation, remote monitoring/controlling and supervision entities are interconnected.