Energy Australia buys Unwired spectrum

Energy Australia has paid $10 million to Channel Seven subsidiary Wireless Broadband Australia for a slice of spectrum used by Unwired as part of the utility's last-mile smart grid.

Energy Australia has paid $10 million to Channel Seven subsidiary Wireless Broadband Australia (WBA) for a slice of spectrum to use in the utility's last-mile smart grid.

The acquisition forms part of the energy utility's $200 million investment in smart grid technologies, with a trial using its new spectrum set to be launched in Sydney suburbs Newington and Silverwater by mid this year. The spectrum bought was a 7MHz slice at 2.3GHz which had been used by Unwired in Sydney, Newcastle and the Central Coast.

Unwired is now being wound down as part of WBA's shift to vividwireless as its lead national brand. WBA issued a statement outlining that it still had 91MHz, which was sufficient for vividwireless' future needs.

Energy Australia spokesperson Kylie Yates told ZDNet.com.au that the utility had rolled out 800km of fibre-optic cable across Sydney, Newcastle and the Central Coast, and had connected over 200 substations as part of its smart grid plans. Its fibre roll-out commenced in 2006.

"The next stage is a telecommunications solution for the last mile in building an intelligent network, which allows all aspects of the network to be connected," Yates said.

The smart grid network includes sensor installations at substations and homes, which facilitate network maintenance and lay the foundation for improved information at households and businesses.

A new website is under construction by Energy Australia, which will enable customers at its trial suburbs to monitor and remotely control some power usage. It plans to enable remote control via existing iPhone applications.

"Under the next stage we will be going to residents and asking them to volunteer to be in a two-year trial and what level of involvement they would like," said Yates.

A total of 1000 households across the two suburbs will be involved in the trial. Newington was selected because it was built as part of the Sydney Olympics, with many homes having solar panels — a key requirement for households that may wish to feedback into the grid. Silverwater was chosen as it offers a sample of older houses.

The acquisition of spectrum from WBA follows Energy Australia's WiMax trial last year, which was conducted with Alcatel-Lucent. The trial was intended to test if signal strengths were adequate for communicating machine-to-machine with network components and smart meters.

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