Ericsson, Telefónica demonstrate LTE smart meter optimisation

Ericsson has teamed up with Telefónica Germany and E.ON Research Center at RWTH Aachen University to demonstrate the use of LTE networks in smart meters for the energy sector. The Swedish infrastructure firm said plans for smart meter roll-outs and LTE deployments are presenting new opportunities for utility companies to take advantage of.

The trial has, according to Ericsson, shown how LTE can provide a flexible communication link from a smart meter to the energy supplier’s IT system and thus help in the management of power networks and resources. It also allows tariff information to be sent to the meter, encouraging the use of energy from renewable sources when it is available on windy or sunny days for example.

Ericsson claimed smart meter message transmission times to IT systems over base stations will remain within the expected 100 milliseconds even during heavy network traffic. This apparently is down to using the quality of service (QoS) features of LTE.

“The trials we have run with Telefónica and RWTH ACS show that LTE is an excellent communications option for utilities rolling out smart meters,” Fiona Williams, Ericsson’s Research Director said. “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.”

The vendor also reckons new LTE features in Release 13 and beyond will offer even better performance and eventually 5G will be able to address the most challenging of utility real-time use cases.

“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,” Antonello Monti, Director of the Institute for Automation of Complex Power Systems (ACS), E.ON Research Center at RWTH Aachen University said.

“They can improve the services they offer their customers and to optimize 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.”

The trials were done by using an Ericsson LTE base station deployed at the research centre at the university, and connecting to Ericsson’s core network facilities at the firm’s Eurolab in Aachen. The messages were generated according to the smart meter use case provided by Telefónica.

“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,” Sven Koltermann, Head of Energy Sales at Telefónica Germany said. “Such mechanisms for the utilities and their grid stability should always be introduced in close cooperation with German regulatory bodies.”

The idea behind smart meters on the one hand is to provide the means for energy companies to do away with estimated bills and better control of their energy network management. On the other hand they are supposed help consumers monitor and reduce their energy consumption.

The UK government has set a date for energy companies to start offering smart meters to customers free of charge next autumn. But there has been criticism of the expected nationwide smart meter roll-out with some expressing concern over the fact there are no standardised parameters for smart meters as suppliers can come up with their own solutions.

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