Long Range Radio – Better Asset Management for Asia’s Utilities

Asia’s utilities get a rapid return on their grid investment thanks to long radio technology.
Published: Tue 07 Apr 2015

Many utilities are beginning to understand the importance of managing their network infrastructure more effectively. With accurate data, they are able to monitor all their assets more effectively, enabling them to better predict how their network is performing and helping them to target future investments.

According to Adrian Flewitt, Vice President for Technical Sales in the EMEA and Asia Pacific Region, Sensus, who will be speaking at Asian Utility Week, networks that provide 99%-plus connectivity can be established very quickly enabling utilities to get a rapid return on their investment.

Benefits of Long Range Radio

Many utilities have trialled a range of communication technologies such as PLC, mesh and cellular network (used in a number of pilot projects in Asia specifically) in order to attain this but have found connectivity rates to be disappointing in particular for meters in difficult to reach places, explains Flewitt. He adds that these technologies are generally unable to offer sufficient reach, coverage and stable connectivity. However, the experience with long range radio has been significantly better, says Flewitt. “FlexNet is purpose-built for the utility network and is therefore becoming a more attractive option for them.”

He points out that long range radio uses significantly less radio infrastructure than other radio solutions which are targeted at utilities-typically less than 10% of the infrastructure required by low power solutions. This means that maintenance and security are much easier to manage, thereby ensuring a more reliable network service. The technology also has a built-in redundancy which protects utility traffic from single points of failure.

Long range radio provides two-way, resilient, secure utility grade telecoms infrastructure to help utilities manage their infrastructure from meter reading through to monitoring, in real time, their most critical assets. This single access technology can be economically deployed across wide areas including urban and rural. Long range radio can be deployed by utilizing existing telecoms infrastructure such as a subset of mobile phone towers, thereby ensuring a rapid wide area rollout. Base stations have ranges of up to 5km in urban areas and 20km in rural areas.

Sensus’ expansion plans in Asia

Sensus has been active in Asia for over 30 years, with its focus mainly in the water meter business, both under its previous name of Meinecke, and now under the Sensus brand.

However, the next phase of the company’s continued growth in the region will focus on the introduction of its FlexNet long range radio solution to the region, explains Flewitt.

Sensus has already introduced its long range radio base stations in Japan and aims to have them live by the first half of this year. This forms part of a trial to demonstrate the effectiveness of the FlexNet connectivity spectrum for smart metering applications. The base stations will be installed in the Tokyo Bay area, which has a high density of multi-dwelling buildings.

Sensus hopes the study will persuade the government to use 280MHz for smart metering and smart grid applications. In essence, the solution will provide utilities with a dedicated channel to work in.

A trial has also been undertaken in Australia to demonstrate FlexNet’s long range radio benefits.

“During the past year, we have been building local teams in various countries such as Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, India and we will continue to expand.”

In addition to the expansion plans, Sensus is also exploring partnerships with the likes of systems integrators and smart meter manufacturers within the various countries.

“We see alliance with local partners as the key to developing business in Asia. Our aim is to provide a faster response in their local language,” says Flewitt.