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April 12, 2015

Ericsson proves viability of LTE for Smart Meters

Ericsson, Telefónica Germany and RWTH Aachen University showed the benefits of LTE optimisation for smart meters.

By Joao Lima

Research conducted by Ericsson, together with Telefónica Germany and E.ON Research Centre at RWTH Aachen University, demonstrated the viability of LTE networks being used in smart meters within the energy sector.

An alternative to existing power lines or fixed network connections of smart meters, LTE prioritisation could deliver a higher rate of reliability and flexibility.

The UK government set out a smart meter scheme last year, but it is in Germany that rollouts are picking up speed.

The trials proved that on-going LTE network deployments could ease communications between the smart meter itself to the utility IT system.

For example, on a sunny day, utility IT systems could send new energy tariffs to the smart meter to encourage the use of energy at the time when it is available in the network from renewable energy.

This way, utility IT systems, through information collected from smart meters, could better manage their power networks in the context of increasing integration of volatile renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, into the power network.

The study proved that over a commercial Ericsson LTE base station, a stream of messages from the smart meters could be received within the expected transmission time period of less than 100 milliseconds at the central utility IT systems even under heavily loaded radio network conditions.

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The recent LTE Release 13 will enable further improvements in LTE performance for utility use cases.

Researchers also noted that once 5G becomes wide available, even the most challenging of utility real-time use cases will be addressed by wireless networks.

The application QoS features to the meter traffic will prevent system failures even during overload conditions, still delivering messages to serve smart meter applications.

QoS features of LTE were used to prioritise MMS message streams from the smart meters, enabling messages to be received even in an overload situation, when other traffic on the network had heavy delays.

The trials were conducted using an Ericsson LTE base station set up at the ACS Institute of the E.ON Research Centre at RWTH and connected to the Ericsson Core Network facilities available at Ericsson Eurolab in Aachen.

Sven Koltermann, Head of Energy Sales in Telefónica Germany, said: "We see the trial results as confirmation that public LTE networks, such as Telefónica Germany’s, offer a reliable and cost effective communications option to utilities companies deploying smart meters.

"Such mechanisms for the utilities and their grid stability should always be introduced in close cooperation with German regulatory bodies."

Professor Monti, Director of the Institute for Automation of Complex Power Systems (ACS), E.ON Research Centre at RWTH Aachen University, said: "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 optimise 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."

Dr. Fiona Willliams, Research Director Ericsson, said: "The trials we have run with Telefónica and RWTH ACS show that LTE is an excellent communications option for utilities rolling out Smart Meters.

"We were happy to see that the QoS features of LTE fully met the communication requirements for power network automation, which are far more stringent than other requirements specifications for smart meter measurement acquisition."

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