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BT joins forces with Arqiva, Detica for smart meter bid

The partners plan to make a bid to provide the communications element of the UK's smart-metering infrastructure, using long-range radio technology
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

BT is to bid for the communications part of the UK's smart-metering infrastructure, in partnership with Arqiva and Detica.

On Monday, the communications and IT giant said it had entered into an agreement with Arqiva and Detica to offer "a dedicated and secure long-range radio communications solution for the government's proposed smart-metering initiative". The partners intend to base these communications on Arqiva's licensed spectrum in the 412-414MHz band.

Arqiva will also provide the radio infrastructure. Detica will secure the system, which will use Sensus's FlexNet long-range radio technology. BT will manage the project.

"Smart meters will use telecommunications to deliver important environmental benefits and so BT is determined to be at the heart of the project," BT Group strategy director Olivia Garfield said in a statement. "It is vital that any solution is designed for ubiquitous coverage of homes and is thoroughly secure and resilient. We believe that long-range radio is the only technology to offer nationwide coverage, and we will release more detail in a series of events in September."

Smart meters use machine-to-machine communications to sent gas and electricity meter readings to the utility company, which no longer needs to send staff to manually collect readings on the premises. The government plans to introduce smart meters into 28 million homes and small businesses by 2020.

Aimed at reducing energy costs and carbon-dioxide emissions, the meters will report billing information and aid in the management of the UK's burgeoning energy smart grid, Arqiva marketing chief Stephen Arnold told ZDNet UK on Monday.

"The first part [of the smart-metering plan] is about the simple reading of meters for billing information, which could be done via SMS [as it is in early roll-outs]," Arnold said. "However, in terms of some the longer-term objectives — demand-side management, the impact of microgeneration and so on — these things will place huge demands on distributed network operators. There's a greater requirement for real-time management of the distributed network."

BT decided to back long-range radio for the smart metering initiative because it provides better nationwide coverage and indoor reception, the company said in its statement.

"The fact it operates on dedicated licensed spectrum is also important, as it is ideal in ensuring the security of supply and protection of consumer data while meeting the needs of the energy industry," BT said.

Energy regulator Ofgem is set to launch a smart-metering prospectus in the summer, which will set out the commercial opportunities in the project. According to BT, Arqiva and Detica, the partners will review the document and formally launch their bid in September.

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