Echelon Corp. and T-Mobile USA, Inc. have announced an alliance to accelerate the adoption of the smart grid in the North American market by reducing the communications cost of smart meters through the deployment of Echelon’s Networked Energy Services (NES) system over T-Mobile’s GSM cellular network. As part of the agreement, Echelon will use a first-of-its-kind embedded T-Mobile SIM within a cellular radio module to enable all the Echelon smart meters on a given low voltage transformer to communicate back to the utility over the smart grid, and T-Mobile will offer users of Echelon’s NES system pricing plans for data usage.
Many advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) systems in the North American market require utilities to deploy their own wireless communications infrastructure, encumbering the utility with the initial cost of building the network and with the ongoing maintenance costs required to keep it operating reliably. Public wireless telecommunications networks have been built to sustain the high-traffic needs of the consumer market and are very reliable. This joint announcement allows electric utilities using Echelon’s NES system to take advantage of the enormous investment that T-Mobile has made in its network and to leverage the 24/7 maintenance commitment of T-Mobile to keep its network operating at maximum efficiency.
“We believe the initiative we have announced today with T-Mobile should fundamentally change the way utilities in North America think about deploying AMI systems,” said Jim Andrus, Echelon vice president of NES Sales Americas. “While the investment in coverage, reliability and security of carriers such as T-Mobile is unmatched by what a utility could do on their own, the operating costs of public networks have traditionally limited their use in the North American market. In contrast, aggressive pricing plans have made the use of the public cellular networks as the backhaul of smart grid systems the norm in Europe. We believe the programs we have put in place with T-Mobile can have the same impact on the North American market.”