Advanced electricity meters with integrated cellular communication modules are forecast to increase from 2.6 million shipments in 2010 to 9.5 million shipments annually in 2016, according to IMS Research. This is one conclusion the research company’s report “The World Market for Smart Electricity Meters — 2011″ published in October.
“The U.S. and United Kingdome are forecast to experience the largest volumes of cellular shipments through 2016 for distinct reasons,” said Rolando Campos, the report’s author. “In the U.S., telecoms have reduced the cost of data plans for meters significantly to about one dollar (or less) per meter, per month. Utilities that wish to reduce up front capital expenditures by over 40 percent and reduce operating expenses are finally realizing the benefits of using public cellular providers.”
Operating costs are lowered by reducing or eliminating the networking and maintenance staff needed to maintain a metering network. In the U.S., a larger percentage of the opportunity for new smart meter installations (i.e. endpoints not under contract) will likely come from smaller utilities that have spread-out populations in diverse geographies. Smaller utilities have less capital and often do not enjoy the tax write-offs that come with large fixed-capital intensive projects, the report said.
“As telecom providers lower the total cost of ownership for a cellular-based smart metering solution, not only will small utilities in the U.S. switch to a cellular option but larger utilities in the U.S. and throughout the world may begin to seek ways to collaborate with local telecoms to make cellular a more viable option,” Campos said.
The United Kingdom is forecast to have the largest cumulative volume of cellular smart meters in the world from 2010 to 2016, the report said. Cellular solutions are key in the United Kingdom due to the general structure of the utilities and grid operators, whereas a meter change-out may happen piecewise, making cellular machine-to-machine devices the likely solution.
In addition, the report said some suppliers plan to ship cellular meters next year and as telecoms in the United Kingdom begin to see the business opportunity in the U.S. mature, those in the region are likely to follow suit and make pricing per meter more competitive.
IMS Research is a supplier of market research and consultancy services on a wide range of global electronics markets. The company is supported by headquarters in Wellingborough, United Kingdom and offices in Austin, Texas, and Shanghai, China.