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Vodafone teams with DCC to upgrade Britain’s smart meter system

UK operator provides 4G and IoT expertise to help company responsible for overseeing and managing the UK’s smart meter infrastructure deliver on strategy to develop, manage and optimise energy assets

Looking to enhance the connectivity of millions of UK homes and businesses and help the country move towards its net-zero targets, by helping people cut their energy usage and allowing the grid to make the most of renewable energy generation, leading operator Vodafone, working with the Data Communications Company (DCC), has signed a service agreement to provide a 4G connectivity upgrade for Britain’s smart meter network.

Putting the move into context, Vodafone noted research from the Office of National Statistics revealing that UK households are a big emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for 26% of total emissions in the country. Smart meters are a key tool for helping customers reduce their overall consumption or move it away from times of peak demand.

It added that the current smart meter network prevents the release of one million tonnes of carbon every year, the equivalent to planting a forest the size of the city of Coventry. It would mean the UK needing one less nuclear power reactor in future.

A subsidiary of Capita, the DCC is responsible for overseeing and managing the UK’s smart meter infrastructure and roll-out. Operating under license from energy industry regulator Ofgem and the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), it decides who builds and operates the smart meter infrastructure by awarding contracts on behalf of the state, and manages those contracts. It is also responsible for linking all smart meters in homes and small businesses to energy suppliers, energy service companies and network operators.

The new partnership with network operator Vodafone comprises a service agreement to provide 4G connectivity for Britain’s smart meter network. It will run for up to 15 years to build and operate 4G managed internet of things (IoT) connectivity for Britain’s smart meter network, which already securely connects more than half of homes to energy suppliers and operators.

The upgrade will also enhance the connectivity of millions of homes and small businesses and will help the country move towards its net-zero targets, by helping homes cut their energy use, and allow the grid to make the most of renewable energy generation. With 4G already reaching more than 99% of the UK population, the ambition of the partnership is for more homes and small businesses to be able to switch to a smart meter. The partners claim users will then be able to better manage their energy usage and reduce their bills, while playing their part in reducing the country’s overall energy consumption.

Vodafone’s technology will provide a new wide-area network, a network of information over a large geographic area. This will connect the DCC’s servers with its long-term evolution (LTE) communication hubs in Britain’s homes, which in turn connect to gas and electricity smart meters.

“[This] announcement underlines our commitment to helping the UK decarbonise,” said Vodafone UK business director Nick Gliddon. “As a global leader in IoT, and with extensive experience in delivering reliable connectivity to the utilities industry in the UK, this agreement leverages the strengths of Vodafone. By helping DCC deliver on its strategy, we’re supporting the development, management and optimisation of energy assets, and so helping the UK work towards its net-zero targets.”

DCC CEO Angus Flett added: “The smart meter network is a key part of the nation’s journey to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Even though there is still a long life and more capacity in the technology we are using today, we need to continuously look towards how our technology is fit for the future. 4G is a natural next step for our connectivity, and is just one of a number of technical improvements the DCC is developing. This partnership with Vodafone is an important part of continuing the DCC’s mission to connect Britain so we can all lead smarter, greener lives.”

Connectivity management of the 4G LTE network will be delivered by Vodafone’s IoT platform, supported by IT and business consulting services firm CGI, which will be responsible for software development.

“CGI is delighted to work with both Vodafone and the DCC to develop the data collection and networks required to optimise the deployment of smart meters across Great Britain,” remarked CGI senior vice-president for energy, utilities and telecommunications Mark Aston. “With a sustainable future at the forefront of the global agenda, empowering consumers with accurate information on usage has never been more important.”

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