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Any hope of cross investment from smart meter to fibre looks lost
Tuesday 01 November 2011 09:39:21 by Andrew Ferguson

The UK has for many years and across the life of many governments failed to join up investments from various industries, it appears the roll-out of smart meters which with a requirement for data connectivity appears to fit hand in hand with telecoms infrastructure upgrades may be another lost opportunity.

The Register is reporting that a plan to spend some £12bn on rolling out smart meters by 2019 may fall by the way side. It has long being hoped that some of the money used for creating a communications infrastructure could be used to push fibre deeper into the UK, either by connecting more homes using fibre to the home, or for investment in better 3G/4G coverage which meters could also use for interactivity.

Smart Metering is often seen as people just having a pretty Wi-Fi enabled device that lets them monitor energy usage, though whether people do use less electricity and save enough money to pay for the devices is open to debate. The current rise in the cost of power to consumers though is most likely changing this, and people hopefully are looking at how many devices they leave switched on, consuming what seems a small amount, but when left on 24/7 365 days of the year does mount up.

To some extent people using pre-pay meters are already using a crude form of smart metering, since they see the units they use vanish as they check each day to ensure their credit does not run out at a time when the shops are closed and thus are stuck with no power for hours until the shops open again and a top-up can be bought. Smart metering would hopefully allow these sort of customers to pay for a top-up via their mobile phone and the meter being updated with the credit remotely. Pre-pay meters have another totally different issue though of the cost of the tariffs compared to people who are already getting things like Direct Debit and online payment discounts.

Healthcare is often touted as a benefit to be considered when investing in fibre and super-fast projects, and this fits in to some extent with news today of a small fund to encourage ways of helping the vulnerable during periods of cold weather. A smart meter with access to data from a thermostat in a property, would allow remote monitoring of the temperature of a home for vulnerable people.

There has been talk of infrastructure investment as a way to boost the economy, alas private investors, shareholds, companies and UK Governments all too often take a short to medium term view where four years away is seen as long term. For example we have an aging population, and in ten years time, these people will more likely be living on their own, and as the cost of transport increases visiting people to check on them, remote non-intrusive monitoring of people may work out cheaper. Add to this the ability to remotely switch on/off the grid feed from micro-generation schemes will become increasing important as power generation comes from more diverse locations.

Of course smart metering requires very low data rates generally, the key point is that rather than spending £100 per home on a solution to meet this low data rate, why not spend maybe a little less by piggybacking on other data infrastructure work across the UK.


Posted by chrysalis over 5 years ago
I missed this one, how does 12billion on smart meters provide any benefit other than to the utility companies? as it will stop people paying for low estimated reading instead of hgh real ones which is probably how a lot of the poor get by. I can see the gains for prepay but not for credit consumers. Shift the 12bn to FTTP instead.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 5 years ago
your article is getting smart meteres confused with energy monitors which are very different.

My smart meter comes with the option with hooking up with all the major mobile providers and takes a meter reading every 30 mins which gets passed onto my energy sipplier.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
The 12bn covers both the cost of the new meters and infrastructure. It is the infrastructure sharing that is where joined up thinking can help.

Topic was discussed in conference in

The report is not online yet, so a case of taking my word for it, as sat in the workshop on shared infrastructure.

Posted by undecidedadrian over 5 years ago
Also the 12billion price tag is being part paid for by the loss of all the meter readers which will save approx 8-9 billion and the rest of the money is met by the utility companies who own the meters.

Also smart meter roll out will become compulsary by law from next year for all the energy suppliers so how can it fall by the wayside is beyond me as this needs to be done.

In the whole very odd article.
Posted by Michael_Chare over 5 years ago
Would the energy need to power a WiFi smart meter be included in the customer's bill? I could see some benefit in such a device it it allowed me to accumulate actual usage data on a hourly basis.
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
I asked the meter reader for my supplier how many he was doing in this road. Answer - 3.
Posted by mervl over 5 years ago
Sorry? Why isn't a wi-fi connection to any old internet-connected router or even a 2G data connection or just an old dial up modem link to a telephone line sufficient for "smart" metering (or even being "read" by a passing vehicle via a wireless link? Sadly fibre isn't the modern alchemy to eliminate all poverty, unemployment, unhappiness and all the other ills of the modern world, and doesn't grant eternal life and make all your dreams come true.
Posted by tommy45 over 5 years ago
Prepay meters (all new ones) do not cut power off until the next morning if the credit runs out after i think 6pm,
Smart metering we are doomed that ain't gonna be to our benefit ,but will be of a grate benefit to the energy con merchants out there, no more will the old and vulnerable be able to juggle things around to pay everyone on time,
Posted by tommy45 over 5 years ago
Mobile signal jammer time me think's cause if the spy meter can't phone home they will have to resort to the current methods to read meters
Posted by fibrebunny over 5 years ago
Perhaps a device funded by social services that utilises the same connection as a smart meter might be an idea to monitor temperature. Can't see meters themselves having thermometers. Also it assumes the elderly person would consent to such a device and that the government actually wants such responsibility.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 5 years ago
A meter read is only a few bytes of data, meter number, reading and time stamp.

The 2G network is more than capable of handling this traffic it's not like the meters are downloading you tube videos or something.
Posted by m0aur over 5 years ago
PLT is a dirty technology that causes serious interference to licensed bands. With the pressure from the likes of the RSGB, I don't think it will ever get off the ground.
Posted by m0aur over 5 years ago
Modern digital prepay meters DO NOT cut off at 6.00am or at any other time. They go into minus and allow five or ten pounds of debt depending on the supplier. Nobody is cut off and left cold.
Posted by fibrebunny over 5 years ago
Pre-pay meters do cut the supply, just not overnight. I'm not aware of the actual times but believe the idea is that they allow people to go the shops and obtain credit. Rather than leave them without power at midnight or something.
Posted by tommy45 over 5 years ago
@m0aur that to which you are referring to is known as emergency credit, but there can be situations where that also has been used , in such circumstances from what i already know, if there is sufficient credit incl emergency credit on the meter before the set time example 6pm then it will not cut off supply until the next morning so could be 6-7am, customers still are charged for electric used, as the key to top up can fail or be lost etc
Posted by m0aur over 5 years ago
You obviously do not have a modern prepay meter or know what you are talking about. I can tick yes to both. If you don't know about 'Emergency credit', check out Google before giving the misinformation usually found on fora.
Posted by m0aur over 5 years ago
Emergency credit is a SET AMOUNT judged to last THREE DAYS. It has NO specific cut off time. The same applies to both my meters. Chech out the link above.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
Last time I saw a pre-pay was neighbours who would run out at odd times some five years ago.

So guess they've improved things at last.
Posted by zyborg47 over 5 years ago
I got no idea what this have to do with fibre either.
@undecidedadrian, if you read the article you will see that Moira Wallace said that the government could pull the plug on smart meters. as for being law from next year, I think you are wrong. They got until 2020 to install them, that is if it still goes ahead.

Posted by m0aur over 5 years ago
This is about transmitting on mains wiring and you don't need a smart meter to do that, it is just that they could introduce an element of control and metering.
That said, Power Line Transmission (PLT) is a filthy technology thant causes terrible interference. Employing it on a small scale in the home via HomePlugs is bad enough, but using the mains supply, which is one massive antenna you cannot stop radiating unless shielded, has proved a nightmare, with severe interference to licensed radio services.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
PLT is one option for the comms, which while low bit rate is part of smart metering.

So what the article has to do is this...if the cost of comms was £50 per household, why not work with authorities to add this amount into the money for meeting UK/EU targets, and thus be able to roll-out more infrastructure on fibre.
Posted by kmendum over 5 years ago
Hmmn. PLT for metering runs at very low bit rates precisely to avoid the fiasco of lamp posts radiating PLT signals, but isn't viewed even by the manufacturers as the whole solution. Has worked well in Italy, but low power radio systems (1W max radiated power) are needed for the rest.
Posted by kmendum over 5 years ago
Given the difficulty of sorting out the radio licensing in the bits of spectrum on offer, plus the sheer lack of power engineers in the UK, and the combination of smart grid (for better control of intermittent sources like renewables) plus smart metering is a challenge in the available timescales. Makes adding fibre unrealistic.
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