A report from Pike Research predicts that the use of mobile networks by utilities for smart grid communications will push the shipment of M2M (machine-to-machine) communications nodes to 73 million worldwide from 2011 to 2020.
The Report ‘Public Carrier Networks for Smart Grids’ maintains that much of the growth is due to utilities rolling out smart grid infrastructure, including smart meters, distribution automation and substation automation, that are increasingly using the mobile networks to handle the associated M2M communications infrastructure.
The cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts that global unit shipments will peak at 10.7 million annually in 2015, coinciding with the peak in the build-out of neighbourhood area networks for smart meter connectivity. After that, unit volumes will gradually decline to 8.2 million nodes annually by 2020. Revenue from the sale of cellular communication nodes to utilities will reach $1.9bn during the forecast period.
For those who are familiar with mobile technologies, Pike says that in the coming decade 3G network technologies including UMTS/HSPA and EV-DO will constitute approximately 54% of the total market for cellular M2M node shipments in the smart grid sector. By comparison, 2G technologies such as GSM/GPRS/EDGE and 1xRTT will capture 25% of the market, despite their age and technological limitations. Emerging 4G networks will represent the fastest growing segment; LTE networks will achieve a 19% share of the total utility market between 2011 and 2020, with WiMAX networks capturing 2%.
Well predicting global smart grid growth over the next nine years is a challenge, given the funding issues, competing technologies, political will and (in some places) consumer resistance. Add to that the uncertainty of what communications technologies will be used and predicting market shares over a nine year period looks like a tall order. But I guess you have to start somewhere.
In the UK, for instance, it’s not too difficult to come up with an estimate of the number of devices, but it’s still an open question as to what communications technology is going to be used. But the report also includes profiles of active carriers, utilities and vendors involved with using public cellular networks to enable smart grid communications, which may also be of interest.