The Internet of Things (IoT) is driving growth in the smart grid sector, with utility industry solutions accounting for 67% of overall M2M device connections by 2023, according to global advisory firm Analysys Mason. Deputy editor Amy Ryan explores.

Communication is at the core of any smart grid deployment, providing the means for communication between utility and consumer and communication between devices.

In the smart grid environment, communication networks should meet specific requirements including reliability, latency, bandwidth, and security depending on smart grid applications. Often data rate and coverage range will determine which technology is selected.

There are various communications technologies that are used to enable the two-way flow of information for smart meters and that enable grid interoperability – including (wired) fixed line communication PLC as well as wireless communications.

Wireless communication presents several advantages for smart grid applications because of its low cost, easy installation, and flexibility. There are various wireless technologies that enable communication for smart grid deployments. The short communication range of wireless systems such as Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Bluetooth make them unsuitable as a general solution for smart grid communication.

Adding to this, these short-range communication technologies often require costly private infrastructure being in place, accessible and reliable. In contrast, GSM/ GPRS (2G) communication over public networks presents a low-cost, WAN solution, despite the technology’s shortcomings (low peak data rates, high latency) in meeting the new demands of the Internet of Things.

In an ideal world, M2M solution providers and mobile carriers will be able to provide utilities with robust cellular communication solutions, stemming from ‘a ubiquitous public cellular network that is easy to use, penetrates deeply into almost all locations, allows for low-cost/low-energy devices capable of operating for years on a small battery.’ i According to a report published by an industry collaborative including Cisco and Ericsson, whilst existing cellular technologies give in-building service they ‘do not provide sufficiently deep coverage for some M2M applications such as metering. No current cellular technology can support very long terminal operating life (sensors) on a small battery.’

LTE, the latest cellular radio access technology, has been designed to provide efficient mobile broadband data communications. Both LTE and UMTS/HSPA (3G) devices in their current forms are…

Click here to read the full article on our digital platform.