Wired or wireless … this is the question


Sometimes I get the feeling that life was much simpler and easier to handle when things were under our control.

Moving from basic/mechanical meters to smart metering is inevitable, but things start getting complicated once we have to decide which way to go … WIRED or WIRELESS?

This article first appeared in Metering & Smart Energy International issue 2-2018. Read the full digital magazine here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

Wired communication has always been the backbone of the metering system, so why should we complicate things by going wireless at the time when wired communication can do the job in a more reliable manner?

With the development of more reliable PLC technologies led by PRIME PLC over the past decade, and with the latest development of PRIME 1.4 technology, PLC communication has gained the confidence of users of wired communication networks when it comes to robustness in connectivity, reliability and security.

Nowadays, with the increased reach of Internet accessibility to homes and businesses through the spread of copper or fibre cables and 3G networks, it has become feasible to deploy an RS485 or Ethernet wired communication network as a back-up solution to PLC. This option can be selected as a backup in areas where there is low consumer density or challenging conditions.

Having a Prime 1.4 PLC communication network with the possibility of accessing the copper/fibre cables and 3G telecom network through an RS485/Ethernet network provides a robust, reliable and secure wired communication platform. This will, in turn, ease up the pressure on utility operations teams and provide them with a more reliable solution.

Whereas, when we compare wired communication to wireless communication solutions we need to take into consideration the level of complexity and uncertainty when it comes to regulations, reliability and security. With the limited bandwidth and the never-ending increase in the number of new players and new businesses occupying the space, there is a fair amount of uncertainty around what the future holds.

In terms of reliability, there are no guarantees that the available bandwidth will continue to accommodate the huge number of new wireless devices added every year utilising the existing RF bandwidth for all applications.

When it comes to security, the challenge becomes even tougher and God only knows what the future holds …

Utilities would like to add assets to their networks that will last for a term of at least 15 years. So, when it comes to smart meters, utilities must think in the same way. Wireless communication solutions come and go, while wired solutions are there to stay.

Utilities must ensure that the smart metering solution they select must have the capability to handle multiple wired communication solutions, having PRIME 1.4 PLC and the PRIME communication platform, with RS485/Ethernet as the secondary communication platform.

In the meantime, the more intelligence that is built into the smart meter, the less burden there is on the communication network. Thus, utilities must strike the balance between the level of intelligence built into the smart meters and the application software to avoid the high level of data volumes that can cause traffic congestion on the network.

Going with a wired communication solution will enable utilities operations teams to sleep at night, relying on a future proof smart metering solution. MI


Emad Z. Elsewedy is a Board Member of Prime Alliance. Chairman & CEO of Elsewedy Electrometer Group – EMG – with 20 years of experience & investments in the Metering industry in Africa, Middle East, Europe, the Americas & Asia.

One of the Early Adopters of the RFID/ Smart Cards in Prepaid metering Applications in Africa, Middle East & the Americas.

Led successful development & implementations of Smart Prepaid/ Postpaid metering technologies using Prime 1.4 PLC, GPRS/ 3G, RF & RS 485/ Ethernet communication technologies in Africa, Middle East, Europe & Asia