The government should go for a single, long-range radio-based network, separate it from existing networks, and classify it as critical national infrastructure, says the SmartReach consortium in its submission on the UK's £10bn smart meter project.
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The consortium, which consists of BT, Arqiva and Detica, was responding to government calls for ideas on how to equip 26 million premises with 47 million new smart meters for gas and electricity. The aim is to cut energy use and lower the country's CO2 emissions by 2.6 million tonnes a year.
SmartReach is pitching for the network that would link all the meters to central or regional processing centres.
It said a single network would cut costs compared to having several service provider contracts, and would reduce system integration risks.
It called for government to speed up deployment plans and to do things in parallel. Procurement should start in early 2011, it said. This would reduce risk by allowing more time for procurement and testing. It would also speed up returns on investment and carbon savings.
SmartReach said existing mobile networks might reach only 70% of households. It would be expensive for them to reach the other 30%, it said.
It called for security to be "built in from the ground up". It said the creation and storage of detailed data on household energy consumption patterns would make it a target for hackers and data privacy thieves. If initial meter deployments were made without robust security, retrofitting would be very expensive and less effective, it said.
SmartReach also called for the network to support smart water meters in future, and also future smart grid applications, such as remote control of ovens and refrigerators. These apps should be part of the original investment in smart metering, it said.
It said the "criticality" of the network required it to be classified as critical national infrastructure, and configured as a dedicated communications network for smart metering.