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Choosing and maintaining the communication infrastructures

IDIS Webinar “Useful advice for a massive rollout” – part 1

For IDIS, Jovan Vujasinovic

The previous year marked the 10th anniversary of the IDIS Association. The idea that sparked the formation of the Association was equal opportunity. Helping small and medium utilities with the process of roll-outs. Throughout this decade, the Association developed 3 packages for smart metering that should help with challenges that come with massive roll-outs. IDIS defines precise use cases and has the certification program, which ensures true interoperability. In this first part of the webinar, we will be discussing how to choose and maintain communication infrastructures with Mr. Nenad Medjeral, Mr. Joren Moelens and Mr. Marko Mismas.


What do you think, how can utilities make a decision when choosing a technology and be sure that they made the right choice?

Joren Moelens: 
Choosing a technology is an important decision. Once you settle on one, there’s no going back for at least another 10 years. Choosing the right communication technology for you is not a decision that can be made overnight. You need to think about a few different criteria. 

First of all, communication technology should fit the bigger picture. It should match the use cases; do you need real time communication, fast interaction, etc.?

The second criteria is choosing the communication technology that is already proven, and that won’t become obsolete before your meter’s end of life. If you’re doing a slow rollout over several years, you should re-evaluate the technology choice every couple of years to keep up with the changes.

And the third, it should be cheap, with not too much maintenance. The idea is to save the consumer money, not to add more cost.  

Nenad Medjeral: 
The choice of the technology of course also depends on the utility and the utility’s organization, the environment, the use cases to be covered, total cost of the ownership, technology evolution and lifetime. 

Marko Mismas:
I’d say that there are 4 factors:

The first one, what kind of use cases should be covered.
The second is the lifetime of the technology.
The third is technology abilities.
And the fourth is from the business perspective, the total cost of ownership of the solution over the lifetime.

It’s not just about use cases today or that have been, but the ones that will also happen in the future.

If the trend of using two communication infrastructures is followed, the utility has three options: to create two of its own; to create one of its own and rent the other; or to rent both. How much do you think this decision depends on the size of the utility?

Marko Mismas:
I think the decision doesn’t really depend that much on the size of the utility, but rather on how competent they are in the field of communications.

For example, G3PLC is used mostly by big utilities, but also the small ones. The hybrid version is offering dual communication compatibility and I’m sure many utilities will choose that regardless of the size.

If the utilities don’t have the communication competencies I think it’s best to rent the data transfer. Everyone should work in the field where they are competent. If they lack the expertise in this field, they should rent it.

Joren Moelens:
Before introducing two communication infrastructures, the utilities should also make a strategic choice. The main reason for introducing two communication technologies is the need, or rather a choice, to have 100% coverage. However, the utilities should be aware of the fact that the last percentages are the most costly. So, the utilities should think if they really need 100% of their meters to be smart meters. If yes, then they only really have the option to use 2 communication infrastructures.

If the utilities decide to go for two, I would suggest to own one, and to rent the other; or to rent both - depending on the level of expertise. Let’s say that the cheaper one could be the main one, and the more expensive one is used to close the gap.

Nenad Medjeral:
The choice of two communications doesn’t have to do much with the size of the utility. It depends on the network the utility has, and what the appropriate communication technologies are for a specific utility. 

I see two cases: 
The case where the main communication technology can’t reach all metering point, then the other technology can be used to cover those gaps.
The second, to use them parallel, to achieve maximum coverage and to have a communication back-up. In case one communication channel goes down, the other can still collect the data, but such solution would add complexity and the solution would increase investment cost and most probably operational cost.

Depending on what should the utilities choose to outsource the cleanup process and data collection? What are the advantages of either solution?

Joren Moelens:
The knowledge of the assets and the internal working of the meter is important for the utility. In the end, they are responsible for the correct working of the assets. Operating the assets is another thing. That can be partially outsourced. In this way, the utility can focus on what’s really important,  the data. Collecting the data can be outsourced, in my opinion, limiting expenses. 

As for the cleanup process, my advice is to choose the technology that requires less cleanup. Outsourcing the cleanup fully, in my opinion, is not the best option, but partially outsourcing is ok. 

Nenad Medjeral:
Outsourcing the rollout, depends entirely on the utility – internal technology know-how and internal processes. 

Cleanup is an expensive process, and it should be minimized. The selected technology should be mature, personal involved in rollout skilled in using it. 

Planning, knowing the technology, knowing about the blind spots - that’s how you minimize the issues during a rollout and later during operation, as well. 

Marko Mismas:
I think the mission of the utilities is to provide a stable and reliable energy supply towards their clients. This is their expertise and they are very competent at that. Today’s technologies are very complex, and there are telecom operators who are dealing with exactly that.

If the utilities are lacking the expertise in dealing with communication and data collection, they should let the experts do their job and outsource that to them. If you want to be successful in the business, you have to be an expert. Let them do the job they’re experts in.


The main reason for choosing two technologies is the utilities’ need to have 100% coverage. However, utilities should also be aware that the last percentages are also the most costly. 
If the utility wants the high percentage coverage, the clean up process is inevitable. Clean up is a very complex and expensive process and and it should be staffed with people that can recognize the problem and know the solution. 
If the utility lacks the expertise in the field of telecommunication and data collection, they should outsource it. This way they will know that the job is in the right hands.


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