Utilities explore wireless backhaul for meter makeovers
Like many utilities, APS is using wireless backhaul to power its statewide advanced meter infrastructure rollout
APS’s AMI deployment uses two-way wireless data communications to and from electric meters at consumer homes. Elster’s meters use data collection devices from Locate Technologies to gather data via a 900MHz wireless system, while M2M vendor Kore Telematics provides the network backhaul over which meter data is transmitted via a series of Hub Collection devices.
“For us, it is very important to get that data back from meters,” Arora said. “Therefore, we choose a middleman to leverage our combined needs with several other companies and then have a significant impact with the provider that will then bring a value to us in terms of services and costs.”
In Kore’s case, the providers are AT&T for its GSM network and Verizon for CDMA in the US. Arora said the service has been better going through a middleman, and has enabled APS to keep costs down. If the utility worked directly with a carrier, Arora feared it would not get the attention it deserved. “If I was directly connected to an AT&T or a large corporation, I would not be on their radar because of the revenue I bring to their bottom line,” he said.
As an MVNO, Kore purchases wholesale airtime from AT&T and Verizon and packages it for M2M-device consumption, which is based on short bursts of data traffic. Kore predominantly deals with wireless networks, but president and chief operating officer Alex Brisbourne said the value an aggregator brings is a guarantee of coverage regardless of what network is most readily accessible. At an economic level, ultra low-use apps like those in the utility space bring the economics down to pennies per month, Brisbourne said. For this reason, pay-for-use is the approach that has traditionally worked best for utilities, but that is starting to change as meters go two-way.
“In that, our job has been to bring a number of network-capable services to the marketplace where today we provide services on both a GSM and CDMA network, both domestically as well as in Canada and world marketplaces that can support, transparently, the connectivity that is needed in these applications,” he said.
For APS, Arora said AMI smart meters using cellular backhaul have increased operational efficiencies from reading and programming meters remotely, eliminated more than 150,000 field visits to transfer service, name changes, meter exchanges, rate changes or read verifications and resolved more than 3,000 meter reading access issues.
“Our vision is about transforming how our customers manage electricity,” Arora said. “We want to leverage our AMI infrastructure to improve our processes and then, in this end game, both the company and our customers will be benefited.”
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