Wireless smart meters roll out in Victoria

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Wireless smart meters roll out in Victoria

Smart grid takes a step forward.

Victorian electricity distributor SP AusNet will use wireless ISP Unwired's WiMAX spectrum to build a network to remotely monitor 680,000 smart power meters.

Under the agreement signed yesterday, once the power company builds its network using Unwired's 2.3 GHz spectrum it will share the infrastructure with Unwired. Unwired will then use the assets to augment the rollout of its Vividwireless network in Melbourne.

Unwired chief executive officer David Spence wouldn't say when it will deploy the Vividwireless network in Melbourne, but said it will be "sometime in the next couple of years".

"When we come to deploy the Vividwireless - and we haven't made an announcement of when that is - then we'll integrate it with their network," Spence said.

The agreement allowed SP AusNet to access the network Unwired deployed once it built that network.

Spence agreed the deal was a type of trade between the two companies.

"SP AusNet will build a network based on the WiMAX standard and deploy it and connect up the [electricity] meters and when we come to deploy our network - our WiMAX network in Melbourne - we will share the networks and share the spectrum," Spence said.

He also said the sharing of the networks would give Unwired an opportunity to reduce capital costs when it came to deploying its Vividwireless product. But Spence said the power company's network would only contribute to a small percentage of the Vividwireless roll out in Melbourne. He said it would account for 10 to 20 percent.

"There's a saving there," Spence said. "And that's of course what interests us. But it's not a big percentage of our total capital costs of building the sort of mobile computing network that we want to build".

As for demand on network traffic, Spence said Unwired would be able to share its network without any dramas because the electricity meters only needed to send data every so often. The Victorian Government has said this will be every 30 minutes.

"The [electricity] meters themselves don't actually take up a lot of traffic on the network," Spence said. "it's sort of a trickle of data compared to video streaming to a mobile device.

"So it's pretty small traffic on a WiMAX network but the great thing for SP AusNet is that it's the best way of sort of providing a smart networking kind of environment".

SP AusNet is one of the five electricity companies in Victoria that is deploying smart meters, which the Government has said will enable consumers of electricity to benefit from more information about how they use energy.

Installation of smart meters in Victorian houses and businesses started last month and will finish by the end of 2013. Victoria will be the the first state in Australia to roll out smart meters to cover 2.2 million houses and 300,000 businesses. The Government said will deliver net benefits of up to $700 million over the next 20 years.

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