mobile | classic  
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology Magazine

Follow us on:
Follow us on Facebook Share via Twitter Share via LinkedIn


Electronics Buyers' Guide

Electronics Manufacturing & Production Handbook 2017


New-gen cellular technology for smart metering?
17 May 2017, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless

Sabrina Bochen of u-blox looks at how the LTE-M standard is making LTE relevant for smart meters.

Smart metering is not the most obvious application for next-generation cellular technology. Utility meters don’t need the high data speeds of up to 100 Mbps that are designed for consumer mobile video streaming. The amounts of sent data are small, the speed of transmission is not critical and low-power operation is desirable.

Most smart meter deployments today use 2G or 3G cellular technologies and u-blox supplies products such as the 2G SARA G family and the 3G SARA U family into these types of metering applications. So, with 2G and 3G metering applications already so well established, why are some parts of the industry calling for smart meters to be upgraded to 4G technologies?

There are actually several good reasons why 4G technologies such as LTE (long term evolution) are applicable to smart meters. One of the most obvious is that by upgrading to the latest technology, utility meters are being future proofed as far as possible. With 2G and even 3G networks undergoing switch-off in some markets, they are just not compatible with the decades of service that are required from utility meters. The safest way to ensure service in the future is to opt for the most advanced technology available today, which is LTE. Mobile operators around the world are investing heavily to ensure that it lasts well into the 2020s and beyond.

Another reason 4G applies to smart meters is that the latest version of LTE includes LTE-M, a new part of the specification designed specifically for machine to machine communications. LTE-M standards such as Category 1, Category M1 and NB1 (also known as NB IoT) are optimised for the high numbers, low data complexity levels and low power needs of widespread sensor networks connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). Cellular communications modules that support these new standards are already available (such as the LARA R2, TOBY R2, SARA R4 and SARA N2 series, which all support LTE Cat 1, Cat M1 and NB1 standards).

Category M1 in particular allows LTE to cost effectively support low data rate applications in a wide range of IoT applications. Its range is up to 100 km with a maximum data rate of around 1 Mbps, and its power efficiency means a utility meter can expect up to 10 years of battery

powered operation. While a peak data rate of 1 Mbps might seem like overkill for transmitting home energy usage information, there are times when a higher data rate is needed, such as when the utility needs to update the meter’s firmware. This is essential, if meters are to maintain a high level of operational security over decades. Firmware will need to be updated and patched to ensure security from wide scale attacks such as from hackers or terrorists, as well as prevent tampering by unscrupulous users wanting to reduce their bills.

Comparing LTE Cat M1 to some of the other low-power networking technologies out there (such as LoRaWAN) underlines Cat M1’s suitability for utility metering. Cellular standards are already rolled out globally, with more than 300 LTE networks deployed in 110 countries covering a very high percentage of populated areas, and mobile network operators have responsibility for installing and maintaining the entire network infrastructure. These networks are globally interoperable and easy to integrate with billing systems. Compared to other networking topologies, such as connecting meters to the Internet via home Wi-Fi connections, cellular also offers excellent reliability.

Cellular standards offer a level of interoperability with consumer devices that allows for straightforward two-way communication between smart meters and smart home appliances that use energy. This could be used to switch appliances on during off-peak hours to reduce consumer utility bills. Compared to Cat 1, Cat M1 has extended range (155,7 dB MCL), allowing signals to pass through more walls and floors for whole home connectivity. Operating on cellular networks also allows easy interconnection with services outside the home that communicate using this technology either now or in the future. This could help bring utility meters into a network that includes waste collection services (smart bins), parking controls, street lighting and many others.

While 4G in its consumer smartphone format isn’t the right choice for low data rate services, the introduction of the LTE-M standard has made 4G cellular technology the front runner for smart utility meter connectivity for technical, economic and coverage reasons. LTE’s new machine-to-machine standards also effectively guarantee mobile network operators’ support for metering data traffic now and in the years to come.

For more information contact Andrew Hutton, RF Design, +27 (0)21 555 8400,,

Supplied By: RF Design
Tel: +27 21 555 8400
Fax: 086 653 2139
  Follow us on Facebook Share via Twitter Share via LinkedIn    

Further reading:

  • The many flavours of Bluetooth IoT connectivity
    17 May 2017, NuVision Electronics, This Week's Editor's Pick, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless
    Bluetooth allows developers to build IoT systems across a variety of applications and do so in the most cost effective manner on a platform flexible enough to meet varying operating constraints.
  • Growth of the connected home
    17 May 2017, Arrow Altech Distribution (AAD), Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless
    The connected home is a rapidly emerging market and platform for products and innovations. Whether you call it the connected home, smart home or home automation, it is a hub of activity for connectivity ...
  • LoRa module
    17 May 2017, ICORP Group, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless
    The GlobalSat LM-110H1 is an RF module based on LoRa technology which provides long-range, low data rate IoT connectivity to sensors, electronic meter reading, geo-location devices, industrial monitoring ...
  • GNSS receiver for wearables
    17 May 2017, RF Design, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless
    ublox announced the launch of its new UBX M8230 CT global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receiver chip, offering a balance of performance and ultra low power use through a new Super Efficient (Super ...
  • Versatile wireless RS-232/485 comms
    17 May 2017, Otto Wireless, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless
    One of the challenges in transparent RF communications is the need for a versatile and reliable solution, converting RS-232 or RS-485 to a wireless medium, which caters for medium-distance wireless communications ...
  • Embedded security solution for IoT nodes
    17 May 2017, CST Electronics, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless
    Designing in crypto-strong authentication to protect Internet of Things (IoT) device hardware, plus providing authenticity and integrity of small data transactions between the device and the cloud, is ...
  • SDK for Thread networking
    17 May 2017, RF Design, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless
    Nordic Semiconductor has launched its first Thread networking solution with the release of its nRF5 SDK for Thread that is designed to utilise the IEEE 802.15.4 PHY support introduced on the firm’s latest ...
  • Sub-GHz transceiver
    17 May 2017, ICORP Group, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless
    Up to +20 dBm transmit power and -120 dBm sensitivity optimise the RF link performance, and support for multiple data packet formats and data encode/decode engines meets the data format requirements of ...
  • Expanded market for Siemens IoT gateway
    17 May 2017, RS Components (SA), Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless
    RS Components announced that has been appointed as official global reseller of the Simatic IOT2020 IoT industrial gateway, which is manufactured by Siemens and for which RS is the sole ...
  • 40 GHz attenuators
    17 May 2017, Conical Technologies, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless
    Mini-Circuits has released a range of 40 GHz attenuators to complement its range of 40 GHz test cables. These precision components achieve extremely wide frequency range with excellent flatness of attenuation. ...
  • Gigabit Ethernet chips and tools
    17 May 2017, Avnet South Africa, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless
    Microchip announces a new portfolio of 48 Gigabit Ethernet chips featuring advanced capabilities, certified compliance, comprehensive software support and copy-ready evaluation tools. The new suite of ...
  • Sub-GHz RF MCU
    17 May 2017, Avnet South Africa, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless
    Microchip’s SAM R30 system in package (SiP) is a single-chip RF microcontroller (MCU) which incorporates an 802.15.4 sub-GHz radio to provide multi-year battery life in a compact 5 mm package. Suitable ...

Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronic Buyers Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual


    Classic | Mobile

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.