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back to article Telefonica and Arqiva set to mop up BILLIONS in smart meter cash

Companies who win upcoming government contracts to install smart utility meters across the UK are set to pocket over £2bn in public money. The money will come from the Department of Energy and Climate Change and will be spent over the next 15 years, at which point the UK is expected to have 20 million smart meters in operation. …

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Bronze badge

Well good luck to all concerned

Telefonica is a virtual monopoly here in Spain, generally they don't give a toss about training their staff much and like to charge for things you haven't had.

If their operation and installation of smart meters in the UK has any parallels to how they operate the phone system in Spain expect the final cost to double, installations to take months to actually function and their engineers to be able to scratch their ankle without stooping and to be able to peel bananas with their feet!

In the last few years the EC has fined them over $1.3 Beellion for various misdemeanours including an antitrust fine of almost €152 million for activities in the Spanish broadband market which, according to European Union competition commissioner Neelie Kroes, "harmed Spanish consumers, Spanish businesses and the Spanish economy as a whole, and by extension Europe's economy".

IIRC a couple of previous CEO are either in jail or undergoing investigation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well good luck to all concerned

I would imagine Telephonica = O2 as far as the UK (and smart metering) is concerned.

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Holmes

Automagic cutting of power - oh noes!!!

Won't someone think of teh skunk farms?

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Coat

Re: Automagic cutting of power - oh noes!!!

More like smart billing, when you using it raise prices, when your not lower prices.

Claim increase on prices is due to wind farms.

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Silver badge

Or you could just repurpose 2g spectrum for 4g (you'd need permission). Perhaps they just don't need as much spectrum as they have? Alternatively they could do what Sprint is doing and use a multimodal system where you can get any technology on any band (nearly anyway, their 2600mhz is tdd lte and wimax only I think). You should be able to get 4g lte on any sprint frequency once they have upgraded a market. Seems a remarkably sensible way of doing it, but they have regulators that allow it.

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Already done

OFCOM have already made the changes necessary to allow LTE or 4G into the existing cellular bands i.e. 900MHz, 1800MH and 2100MHz.

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Refarming permission already granted

Ofcom granted permission for O2, Vodafone and EE to refarm their 2G spectrum for first 3G and then 4G services. http://www.telecoms.com/161582/ofcom-approves-2g-and-3g-spectrum-refarming/

Right now, you can't make phone calls on LTE - we're still waiting for the networks to implement Voice-over-LTE. The phone falls back to 2G or 3G to make phone calls. That means 2G can't be completely switched off yet, as even 3G coverage isn't up to it.

Frankly, I think the telcos should be required to sort out their coverage, deploy VoLTE, and shut down 2G before they get any more spectrum. We're more than 13 years on from the 3G auction and coverage is still pretty atrocious. I particularly object to the idea that broadcast TV would have to go through yet another technology upgrade in order to keep its current coverage level and range of content, to make space for telcos to continue to run three generations of incompatible networks, the oldest of which was obsolete more than 10 years ago. A sunset date for 2G would *make* the telcos improve 3G coverage.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Refarming permission already granted

> A sunset date for 2G would *make* the telcos improve 3G coverage.

And who would pay? The customers of course.

Besides, what's to stop the Telcos just using 3G in the then-obsolete 2G spectrum?

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Silver badge

Shame

Shame we didnt use the opportunity to use this to roll out Broadband over power lines. Would have given automatic backhaul regardless of phone coverage, and shaken up the broadband market.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Shame

broad band? to send 350K bytes of data per month ?

2G SMS seems ideally suited.

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Silver badge

Re: Shame

It may be ideally suited, signal dependent, for that, but that's all it's ever going to be. BoPL could have offered an escape from extortionate line rental rates, brought new NV providers into the market and service 100% of the population on top of doing the main job

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Bronze badge
Stop

Re: Shame

BoPL on a mass scale for anything other than low bandwidth applications (like smart meters) is not a great idea with current technologies, and it difficult to implement in the UK given how the power infrastructure is owned (liabilities if there is an accident, who fixes it etc).

An explanation is probably worthy of an article in itself, but one of the many things is that you have to either inject the radio signal into the cable after the final network transformer (as the transformer blocks the signal completely) or rig some kind of bridge on each transformer to allow the radio signal to span it and inject it further back in the line (but not too far due to attenuation). For mass consumer broadband, you may as well keep going down the fibre to the cabinet or fibre to the home route due to the additional network nodes you'd have to build.

They do use BoPL for smart metering in Italy I think, and I seem to remember that powerline networking was in the mix as part of the bidding process for the UK.

Been a couple of years since I worked on this stuff so things may have moved on.

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Anonymous Coward

Demand Side Management

Successive governments have failed to have any sort of joined up power generating policy. The result is that there will be brown outs in a few years. To combat this they are setting up standby diesel generators to cover short term power shortages and are looking at paying businesses to switch to their own standby diesel generators when the grid is short of power.

Smart meters are there for the "Demand Side Management". What this means is that when power is short they can send a signal to meters to cut off the electricity supply to your home. Since they can do it on a meter by meter basis (instead of a whole area) they can decide to leave the power on to care homes, disabled residences, politicians homes or whatever criteria they decide is essential.

Knowing what power you consume on a minute by minute basis will make very little difference to demand. In the years from 2003 to 2011 they had numerous measures to cut down power usage. They pretty much banned incandescents, gave away CFLs with the morning newspaper and banned the sale of nearly every domestic appliance without an energystar rating. At the same time CRT got replaced with lower power LED, plasma and LCD screens. Yet despite all of this, their own figures show that there was no change in the median amount of energy used in the home, it stayed at 3,300kWh. The most they can hope for is a couple of percentage points, but even that is optimistic, when what they actually need is at least 30-40%.

They are all living in cloud cuckoo land.

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Silver badge

Re: Demand Side Management

"Yet despite all of this, their own figures show that there was no change in the median amount of energy used in the home, it stayed at 3,300kWh"

All built into DECC's farcial plans and assumptions, is that EU "product policy" will cause a dramatic reduction in power consumption. What this means is that they assume that the continuous tightening of product energy efficiency will cause household demand to fall. As you suggest that doesn't happen very much, partly because the incremental savings aren't that great. And in fact, smart enabled devices and household networks will have incremental demand running 24/7, only a few watts, but it all adds up, and goes on to baseload..

The strange thing is that even if DECC are correct, and big savings are to come from more efficient products (because the makers simply design them to be more efficient) why waste £14bn on crappy smart meters? Because they want to force time of day tariffs on everybody, as part of their ongoing master plan to mess up every aspect of energy supply and inflate costs, without the inconvenience of having to nationalise it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Demand Side Management

There is currently a report from The Office of National Statistics (ONS) claiming that average household energy consumption has decreased by 24.7% between 2005 and 2011. Not all is as it seems.

The ONS has the average household consumption in 2011 as 19.7mWh, the Ofgem report I refer to has it as 19.8mWh. This is made up of 16.5mWh Gas and 3.3mWh Electricity. The ONS report does not break it down to Gas and Electricity.

The ONS report has 2005 consumption as 27.5mWh and the Ofgem report has 2003 consumption as 23.8mWh. The Ofgem report breaks it down as 20.5mWh Gas and 3.3mWh Electricity.

Why the difference? It could be that 2005 was high in terms of consumption and 2003 was low or it might be because ONS uses average values and Ofgem uses median.

If ONS had produced separate Gas and Electricity figure then there would be no need to speculate.

I feel a FOIA request coming on.

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FAIL

Another ill-informed piece by 'Billy The Ray'...what dumb*ss...

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Headmaster

Mr. Moon-Watcher, I presume?

Your really need to work on using the indefinite articles like "a"...

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Anonymous Coward

@ The Reaper.

Why is this ill-informed? People here are mostly saying that this whole metering idea is bollocks. And of course the gov is spending the money, because it isn't theirs, it's ours - that they take from us by threat of incarceration. Seems like the energy companies are doing the same. Even Al Capone would blush at all this.

And the idea that they can just turn off the power to an individual house is really scary.

I'm with AC about Demand Side Management.

So, what is ill-informed?

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If I get forced to have a smart meter

I'll put it in a Faraday cage.

I doubt very much if the drone sent round to read the meter will recognise what one looks like.

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Silver badge

Re: If I get forced to have a smart meter

Out of curiosity, what do you think a Faraday Cage looks like?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If I get forced to have a smart meter

I'd be intrigued to see how well this works in the 19th Century dark satanic mill where my flat is located.

The 1m thick solid stone walls already block mobile signal (even in the flats where we have windows), but the meters all 72 of them) are located in the cellar. Helpfully, the BT presentation into the building is in a different cellar at the other end of the building and apparently there is no conduit between the two other than a single ring main to power the lights.

How do I know this? Well last week a team of guys from Eon turned up to give us all smart meters - after two days of hunting about and scratching their collective head they gave it up as a bad job.

British workmanship, it makes you proud :)

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Gold badge

"BoPL could have offered an escape from extortionate line rental rates"

Nahh, you know that is really a "wealth transfer fee" and the power line providers would just come up with an equivalent fee.

"brought new NV providers into the market and service 100% of the population on top of doing the main job"

And blasted noise throughout the RF spectrum into all kinds of both licensed and unlicensed RF bands, making conventional radio and television useless for some, as well as interfering with ham use (including in emergencies) Even the figures provided by those who wanted to provide Broadband over Power Line showed unacceptable increases in noise levels (the BoPL provider just hemmed and hawed that these high noise levels were not *really* a problem...), while field tests in the few areas running trials (or god forbid operational systems) show even higher noise levels than the figures indicated.

My question is... Zigbee to a "home hub?" What "home hub"? Why on earth would I possibly permit a device to a) Clutter up my space, b) Use the internet connection I'm paying for, and c) Use some of the very electricity they are billing me for, in order to a) Intrude on my privacy by providing minute-by-minute power usage* and b) While reducing the power company's operating costs by no longer having to send meter readers, giving them an excuse to raise rates? Why wouldn't I just unplug this unit and shove it in a drawer?

*Before you think this is tinfoil hat territory, it's pretty easy to determine use of washer, drier, computer (notebook versus desktop), printer, game system, lighting, probably even to tell if you are charging your phone or not with that level of detail power meter information. (Unless you do it with lights off) they could even infer when and how often you go to the bathroom. EU may have privacy laws but the US does not, utilities here are ITCHING to get this kind of information so they can sell it as "marketing information", and I think home habits are none of the marketer's business.

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Anonymous Coward

The utilities will own our souls!!!!!!!!!!!

I wish folks would not get so emotional about this. It's not about turning off power to houses but to specific appliances. If a fridge gets turned off for the ten minutes after Coronation Street finishes when everyone gets up and puts the kettle on what difference to the consumer does it make? Not a lot I would suggest. That said, if it means we don't have to spin up a load of dirty CO2 producing generators for the sake of a few million cuppas then surely that is a good thing going forward. Some higher being is not going to fart on demand in the direction of the over subsidised windfarms that are sitting there idle to get them to produce power. In an era when every home is using more energy, demand management via methods such as time of use tariffs are a sensible way to even out the consumption peaks. Continuing to throw generation capacity at the problem is unsustainable environmentally and economically. MIcro Generation be it Solar PV, WInd etc and the inevitable push towards electric vehicles will place new demands on the grid that will demand better management and visibility. The head in sand approach adopted by Governments of all persuasions has brought us very close to a electricity supply seen in half of Iraq and the utilities need to get a grip on the grid.

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Stop

Re: The utilities will own our souls!!!!!!!!!!!

"It's not about turning off power to houses but to specific appliances. If a fridge gets turned off for the ten minutes"

And who exactly is going to be buying me a new fridge that supports this? My current one works fine and I've no plans to spend a fortune upgrading it to appease this lot of muppets.

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Bronze badge
Boffin

Re: The utilities will own our souls!!!!!!!!!!!

You don't need a smart meter to have smart appliances like fridges which turn themselves off temporarily when demand is high. They easily can do that now by monitoring the frequency of the mains, it decreases from nominal by a fraction of a Hz when demand is high, and increases when demand is low. See http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/Data/Realtime/Frequency/Freq60.htm

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Either

TETRA or weightless seem like better options than 2g for a smart meter in a basement

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900 MHz ISM band?

One thing that irked me in the original article: it mentions 900 MHz ISM band. I checked the ofcom spectrum management site, but the UK doesn't have a 900 MHz ISM band (it's US-only).

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: 900 MHz ISM band?

Ofcom is planning to release that band for UK use later this year, something which Arqiva opposed.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/06/28/ofcom_commits_to_srd_release/

...sorry if that wasn't clear in the piece.

Bill.

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