& cplSiteName &

Structural Issues Facing LPWA in the Utility Sector

Danny Dicks
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Danny Dicks
8/2/2017
50%
50%

On the face of it, there's a great fit between low-power, wide-area (LPWA) networks and utility communication requirements. But one of the intriguing and complicating factors is the variety of utility market structures seen in different countries -- and the variations between electricity, gas and water markets. There are many country-specific subtleties, but it is possible to identify at least three models of market structure:

  • Fully vertically integrated players (producer, distribution network owner and retailer) -- possibly with national or regional monopolies -- more typical of local or regional water utilities. Most countries have no national transmission infrastructure for water; in some countries water consumption is not metered.

  • Monopoly local providers of electricity or gas at distribution network and retail layers, with a separate monopoly national producer and transmission infrastructure company. This is more typical of countries where municipalities have strong control over many local services.

  • More fully deregulated competitive markets where consumers have a wide choice of retail suppliers and where dynamic wholesale markets exist. This is more common in electricity, but can also apply in gas and water sectors.

On top of this needs to be added the variety of approaches taken in different countries to the provision of communications services for mandated smart metering programs -- from single national communications infrastructure providers to local utility-controlled networks.

What strikes me is the contrast of this complexity and structural fragmentation with the simplicity and global homogeneity promised by the Internet of Things (IoT) platform and network services (in the interest of driving up volumes and driving down costs). It's easy to see that the go-to-market strategies of LPWA communications service providers and equipment vendors need careful thought.

There is a second architectural issue to consider, too – and that's related to the communications requirements of utility applications. LPWA networks are essentially based on star, or star-of-stars, topologies. The benefits are that infrastructure costs are kept low because a few basestation sites can handle a very wide area and a very large number of connected devices. But that's not traditionally how utility communications networks are built: the layers of home area networks (HANs), neighborhood area networks (NANs) and field area networks (FANs), including those using mesh architectures, make significant use of data concentrators and gateways, allowing for appropriate communications technologies to be used based on best performance in different locations, and ensuring the reliability of connectivity that utilities put very high on their list of requirements.

LPWA technologies are used in electricity, gas and water networks, and there are several big trials underway; however, there is still work to be done by their advocates to demonstrate that the way they are delivered, and their performance, fully meet the needs of utilities.

The Heavy Reading report "LPWA for Utility Applications: Smart Metering and More" examines the applications for LPWA in the utility sector; compares the leading LPWA technologies that have gained traction in the utility space (and the major competing communications approaches); looks at the supply side of the market and identifies leading vendors of communications infrastructure, components, devices and platforms relevant to utility markets; and gives examples of the use of LPWA networks in electricity, gas and water industries.

— Danny Dicks, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Cable is well on the path to meeting 5G backhaul and small cell requirements; however, cable may face competition from mobile network operators (MNOs) and find challenges in technology and regulation limitations.
Taking the pulse of NFV and SDN deployments.
Although many service providers have already deployed software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology and believe it is an integral part of their business, a clear path to vendor success and long-term revenue isn't yet visible.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly, but the lack of standards – as well as uncertainty about its revenue potential – is a major source of frustration for communications service providers (CSPs).
Whatever strategy CSPs adopt in the emerging IoT landscape, a critical enabler of their IoT business will be the monetization engine.
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading is spending much of this year digging into the details of how automation technology will impact the comms market, but let's take a moment to also look at how automation is set to overturn the current world order by the middle of the century.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
November 1, 2017, The Royal Garden Hotel
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, UK
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue – London
November 10, 2017, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
November 16, 2017, ExCel Centre, London
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
May 14-17, 2018, Austin Convention Center
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Muni Policies Stymie Edge Computing
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 10/17/2017
'Brutal' Automation & the Looming Workforce Cull
Iain Morris, News Editor, 10/18/2017
Worried About Bandwidth for 4K? Here Comes 8K!
Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation, 10/17/2017
What Does Automation Mean to You?
Ray Le Maistre, International Group Editor, 10/17/2017
Animals with Phones
Selfie Game Strong Click Here
Latest Comment
Live Digital Audio

Understanding the full experience of women in technology requires starting at the collegiate level (or sooner) and studying the technologies women are involved with, company cultures they're part of and personal experiences of individuals.

During this WiC radio show, we will talk with Nicole Engelbert, the director of Research & Analysis for Ovum Technology and a 23-year telecom industry veteran, about her experiences and perspectives on women in tech. Engelbert covers infrastructure, applications and industries for Ovum, but she is also involved in the research firm's higher education team and has helped colleges and universities globally leverage technology as a strategy for improving recruitment, retention and graduation performance.

She will share her unique insight into the collegiate level, where women pursuing engineering and STEM-related degrees is dwindling. Engelbert will also reveal new, original Ovum research on the topics of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, security and augmented reality, as well as discuss what each of those technologies might mean for women in our field. As always, we'll also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air and chat board.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Partner Perspectives - content from our sponsors
The Mobile Broadband Road Ahead
By Kevin Taylor, for Huawei
All Partner Perspectives