Mobile operators could lose out in the race to win a chunk of the Government’s £4.5bn smart meter programme due to connectivity problems, a smart metering expert claimed this week.
Everything Everywhere, Vodafone and O2 are all vying for a slice of the programme, which aims to fit smart meters in over 30 million homes and businesses in the UK by 2019.
However, Andy Slater, a director at Sensus, which is a partner to Arqiva, another bidder for the programme, said he was sceptical about their coverage. He said: ‘Domestic meters tend to sit in cupboards under the stairs. Rates quoted by Ofcom and operators are for outdoor coverage and don’t cover attenuation to indoors. Vodafone has Sure Signal to boost indoor coverage, for example.’
Pointing to a Vodafone report published in 2009 which states that GPRS connectivity rates to domestic meter cupboards is ‘only 70%’, Slater said: ‘[This] means nine million homes would need an additional fill-in solution, requiring more visits and further costs.’
Capacity is another issue, said Slater, who argued mobile networks would need further investment to support an additional 27 million end point connections. He also raised security concerns as fill-in solutions for smart meter not-spots are not on protected frequency bands. Arqiva uses long range radio technology for smart meters, which he said can deliver 99% connectivity.
A Vodafone spokeswoman said it invested over £1m per day in its network: ‘We have completed detailed analysis and testing to clearly understand smart meter deployments in the home and are confident that we can meet the coverage requirements of the smart metering programme.’