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Telefónica wins UK smart meter deal

The GSMA hopes to boost the M2M market

m2m-simcityTelefónica’s UK arm has been selected as the connectivity provider for the UK’s Smart Meter Implementation Programme in two of the project’s three regions. The operator will provide service in the Central and Southern regions for the programme, which will see the deployment of 53 million connected gas and electricity meters across the UK by 2020.

The deal is valued at £1.5bn over a 15-year lifespan, the operator said, and remains subject to contracts being agreed. O2 will use its cellular network to provide connectivity, supplemented by “mesh technology” to connect meters that are in areas outside of cellular coverage, it said in a statement.

When asked for more detail on the technology, a Telefónica spokesman told Telecoms.com that the firm had been “asked by the Department of Energy and Climate Change not to say any more than is in the statement.”

“Telefónica is extremely proud to have been selected by the Department of Energy and Climate Change as a preferred bidder for the UK Smart Meter Implementation programme,” said David Plumb, digital and new business director for Telefónica UK. “It’s a huge endorsement of cellular as the right communications technology and of our vision for smart meters to be the foundation of a smarter energy future for the UK.”

Not everybody in the industry believes that cellular networks are the best solution for M2M connectivity, however. At the Cambridge Wireless Future of Wireless event in July, James Collier, CTO of white space solutions provider Neul, said that M2M services required “a network designed for purpose.”

In a challenge to the cellular industry, he said: “Mobile operators are not set up to provide this kind of connectivity because it’s not symmetric. It’s really quite different from the current P2P view of the world that these operators have,” he said. “Do [M2M customers] want to put [their] investment in the hands of an operator whose motivations are not the same as theirs, an operator that may not be around at the end of that 15-year period, an operator for whom serving them is currently merely a sideline designed to fill “marginal or spare capacity”? I don’t believe they do.”

Alex Sinclair, CTO at the GSMA, hit back, saying: “To suggest that MNOs will not be significant players smacks of ideology rather than commercial sense.”

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