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Smart meters use telecoms infrastructure to enhance utility networks. However, many utilities are choosing to bypass MNOs by using alternative communications technologies. This report examines how MNOs are looking for ways to address the utility sector and the relationships between this and the telecoms sector.

Executive summary

- A ‘smart grid’ is achieved by using telecoms to enhance a utility distribution network: The fundamental challenge for utility companies is to ensure the balance of generation and demand. New technology is emerging that is aimed at addressing the need to modernise aging utilities. This is most obvious in smart metering, which enables the „smart grid?. Smart meters use telecoms infrastructure to enhance utility networks. Smart grids and smart meters offer benefits to utility companies, policy makers and customers.
- The utilities sector has several parallels with the telecoms sector: Telecoms and utilities are both mature, heavily regulated sectors that are under pressure from policy makers and customers to modernise. Mobile network operators (MNOs) in particular are looking for ways to address the utilities sector and the relationships between this sector and the telecoms sector.
- MNOs are most directly involved in smart grids through the provision of support for advanced metering infrastructure: Cellular connectivity is more expensive than alternative technologies (such as PLC or other short-range, wireless mesh networking technologies) for smart meters. Consequently, cellular connectivity is typically reserved for backhauling neighbourhood concentrators rather than the meters themselves.
- In contrast to gas and electric metering, the opportunity for network operators to capitalise on water metering is limited: The location of water meters is sub-optimal, so one approach is for the utility firm to use short-range communications technology and conduct drive-by meter readings, which only requires a laptop equipped with a RF receiver and some software.
- Analysys Mason projects that utilities will be the fastest-growing M2M sector between 2013 and 2023, driven by smart-metering initiatives: Analysys Mason predicts that xx% of households worldwide will have some form of smart metering by 2024.

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The Smart metering: opportunities and challenges for mobile network operators, and utility case studies

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