Choosing the right smart metering connectivity:
Cellular or Mesh?
The first connected meter rollouts began more than two decades ago and could be considered as one of the earliest mass deployments of IoT. Automated Meter Reading (AMR) systems delivered consumption data to utility companies by way of 2G cellular, PLC (Power Line communication) or ISM band mesh network, either proprietary or standards based. The core objective of these roll-outs demonstrated a classic IoT use case: To increase efficiencies whilst delivering an improved customer experience.
This is still true with today’s meter deployments but with the added dimensions of Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) requiring a new generation of Smart Meters.
As demand for power and resources continues to grow and expand into ever more regions, Utilities are committed to modernizing grid distribution networks to balance supply and transmission with demand. To make this happen, Utilities are dependent on monitoring their smart grids with reliable and scalable IoT communications technology.
AMI looks to expand the original use cases, not only by reading the meter remotely, but by treating the Smart meter as both connected sensor to measure and report grid dynamics, and a hub to connect peripheral devices and increase customer engagement.
Smart meters have become a critical component in a critical industry. They depend on reliable, agile and secure networks, able to adapt to an expanding universe of IoT connected smart devices and assets.
That’s where cellular communication excels!
Efficient. Reliable. Secure.
Cellular IoT is preferred for long life smart energy solutions
As cellular technology has evolved, communications based on 4G LTE, Low-Power Wide Area (LPWAN) and 5G technology have emerged as the preferred connectivity ecosystem to support swift digital transformation for utilities. Future-proof 4G LTE and 5G networks provide clear advantages over traditional RF mesh networks.
Cellular network superiority for smart energy:
- Extreme power efficiency supports long life battery-powered devices
- Ubiquitous global networks provide connectivity everywhere
- Expanded network reach and range
- Superior reliability keeps assets connected
- Future proofed and compliant with evolving 3GPP industry standards ensures longevity
- Improved SIM-based security protects and mitigates risk
- Secure integration with the cloud keeps data safe
- Secure remote provisioning and updating reduces service costs
- Edge intelligence supports innovation freedom
- Unprecedented agility and scalability supports expanding connections
With smart energy, it’s all about reliability, efficiency, reach, flexibility, and security.
Cellular IoT technology strengthens AMI systems by delivering steadfast and reliable access to energy data while reducing meter reading costs and saving power and resources. An enormous benefit to using cellular connectivity is that it can deliver complete visibility of energy supply and demand and remote meter management in almost real-time. This in turn strengthens grid stability.
Cellular network technology supports Utilities looking to quickly optimise their business models while improving efficiency, sustainability and helping to shrink their carbon footprint.
But which cellular technology is right for your smart energy applications?
The top cellular IoT options for Smart Energy
4G LTE, 5G, LPWAN, NB-IoT, Cat-M, Cat-1…what’s the difference? And which technology is best for smart metering? With so many options, it’s easy to feel uncertain. A review of the basics is a good place to start.
To determine the best cellular technology for any AMI system, utilities must consider the following:
- Where will smart meters be deployed?
- Are they battery-powered or integrated with a power source?
- How widely dispersed they will be? Local, regional, global, or mixed?
- How will they be used within the AMI ecosystem?
In addition, special consideration must also be given to balancing cost with features such as data speed, bandwidth, power efficiency, and reach.
So, how to determine the best cellular technology for your smart meter? Let’s examine the options.
Low Power Wide Area Network Technologies
As the name implies, Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technologies use very low power to provide long-range cellular connectivity. Specified by 3GPP, LPWAN technologies use a small portion of the mature and ubiquitous LTE band to provide connectivity that’s ideally suited to AMI and smart metering applications.
|NB-IoT (Narrow Band IoT)
||LTE CAT-M (or LTE-M)
NB-IoT is an LPWAN technology that’s prepared for the 5G future. It was developed primarily for indoor, low-cost applications and it’s especially well-suited to stationary, battery-powered devices that transfer small bits of data at low speed. Data rates offer 26 kbit/s on the DL and up to 66 kbit/s on the UL.
- Supported by network operators globally
- Already future proofed for 5G, it´s specified as 5G NR mMTC technology
- Most power efficient LPWAN option for small data transfers
LTE-M is another LPWAN standard well suited to low
power, cost constrained applications while also
supporting lower device complexity and extended
coverage range. Offering increased data rates
of 1Mbps on the DL and UL, it’s ideal for file transfers
and application firmware/security updates.
- Supported by network operators globally
- Future proof - 5G NR mMTC technology Expanded bandwidth capacity while preserving
4G LTE CAT1 technology
||LTE CAT1 bis
Designed and specified exclusively for IoT applications, LTE Cat 1 has been widely regarded as the natural replacement for sunsetting 3G IoT applications due to its data rate of 10 Mbit/s DL and 5 Mbit/s UL. CAT 1 provides extended coverage range while scaling down bandwidth and communication demands to save power and cost for large-scale and/or long-range IoT systems.
- It´s the only IoT specific technology supported by ALL network operators globally
- Delivers exhaustive global coverage
LTE CAT1 bis simplifies the LTE CAT 1 standard by
adopting a single antenna rather than the diversity
antenna approach of other LTE standards.
Many smart metering applications prefer to forgo
a 2nd antenna in exchange for lower BOM costs,
less complexity in board layout and easier approval
- Optimal single antenna LTE solution