In Germany, telecom companies Telefónica Germany and Ericsson have teamed with the E.ON Research Center to demonstrate the potential of LTE for smart meter connectivity.
The trials carried out at RWTH Aachen University suggest that LTE prioritization, a standard feature of LTE, allows utilities to use public networks for communicating with smart meters as an alternative to existing powerline or fixed network connections.
The trials were conducted using an Ericsson LTE base station set up at the E.ON Research Center and connected to the Ericsson Core Network facilities at Ericsson Eurolab in Aachen.
The RTDS power network simulator of the E.ON Research Center was used to generate the stream of messages according to the specifications of the smart meter use case provided by Telefónica.
Smart meter data prioritization
The study found that during heavily loaded radio network conditions, the stream of messages from smart meters can be received within the expected transmission time period of less than 100 milliseconds at the central utility IT systems over a commercial Ericsson LTE base station, the companies claim.
Smart meter data was prioritized using the Quality of Service (QoS) features of LTE.
This suggests that messages sent to a pre-paid meter to reconnect a customer that has just phoned to buy a top-up for their electricity or gas meter, will happen instantly, regardless of the network load conditions.
The new features available in LTE Release 13 and beyond will enable further improvements in LTE performance for utility use cases and when 5G is available, even the most challenging of utility real-time use cases will be addressed by wireless networks, Ericsson said in a statement.
Professor Monti, director of the Institute for Automation of Complex Power Systems (ACS), E.ON Research Center at RWTH Aachen University, says: "As the installation of smart meters progresses, and communications and power network technology develops towards smart grids, more and more business opportunities are opening up for utilities.
"They can improve the services they offer their customers and to optimize their networks, enabling the large-scale integration of renewable energy sources into the power generation mix while maintaining the highly reliable power network service that society needs to function efficiently."