Are we on the cusp of a shift toward greater use of cellular technologies in smart metering?

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17 April 2013, Gas, Electricity

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Michigan-based CE has revealed the next regions to receive a smart meter as part of its ongoing rollout. Installations in the Allegan and Ottawa counties are scheduled to begin at the end of April, following on from initial deployments in Muskegon County, which started last year.

Currently, private, utility built networks utilizing power line communication or radio frequency (RF) mesh technologies represent the vast majority of the global smart meter installed base. However, CE's rollout seems to endorse proponents of cellular smart meter deployments in terms of their solutions being viable, cost-effective, and meeting the needs of utilities.

CE aside, examples of point-to-point (P2P) cellular connections are hard to find. Scandinavia has probably seen the most installations, while in the UK, British Gas has deployed around half a million devices that use the Vodafone network to transmit data. However, more and more utilities are noticing the importance of cellular as a smart meter technology, as evidenced by the number of networking companies now adding cellular to their communications portfolios:

Silver Spring Networks previously connected meters through 900MHz RF mesh networks. In January 2012, it launched the latest version of its technology, Gen4, which allows a utility to mix in cellular.

In February 2012, Itron snapped up cellular networking company SmartSynch, the technology of which is being used in the CE rollout. Prior to this, the company relied upon its OpenWay mesh system to link meters.

In December 2012, Elster announced it had added cellular two-way communications to its EnergyAxis mesh networking platform.

So, are we on the cusp of a shift toward greater use of cellular technologies for smart metering? Datamonitor certainly thinks so, and recently published a new report that focuses on this very issue. "Potential of Public Networks in European Smart Meter Rollouts" (April 2013, EN00009-021) better explains the networking options currently available to utilities, sets out the arguments for and against private and public smart grid networks, and provides an overview of key companies in each camp. It concludes with an assessment of the suitability of various European countries for P2P networks and the future of smart grid networking. Will cellular displace private networks as the technology of choice, or is a hybrid approach the more probable scenario? / / @DatamonitorEN

Source: MarketLine

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