New InduBox GSM M4 modem tuned for upgrades of C&I (Consumer & Industrial) meter infrastructures in Europe
InduBox modems used for recent migration from CSD to IP communication in the European electricity market
Since 2004, Belgium’s largest utility companies - Fluvius, Sibelga, Ores - use industrial Bausch Datacom InduBox modems in remote electricity meter reading to bill their Commercial and Industrial customers, or “C&I customers”, who have an electricity contract demand above 56 kVa to 110 kVa. In this way 'Smart Metering' has been a reality for industrial and commercial customers in Belgium for a long time. Data stored in the meter is typically transmitted transparently via the different serial interfaces of the Bausch Indubox modem and then through CSD or GPRS to the AMR system.
Since 2004, Belgium's largest utility companies - Fluvius, Sibelga, Ores - are using industrial Bausch Datacom InduBox modems in remote electricity meter reading to bill their Commercial and Industrial customers
Nowadays, there are however, two new trends in the world of data communication that have a major impact on the way utilities retrieve their electricity invoicing.
First of all most cellular network operators (like Proximus in Belgium) are looking to migrate from « old » Circuit Switched Data (CSD or dialup over GSM) services - time based billing - to Packet Switched IP communications service – data based billing- . Today it is even very difficult sourcing SIM cards supporting CSD, and one can expect networks all over Europe to start announcing switch-offs of CSD services. So aside from the risks of a withdrawal of CSD at some stage in the future, CSD is also (much) more expensive compared to IP packet data when paying per minutes for CSD usage.
A major/significant upgrade of electricity meter infrastructure for industrial & residential customers is taking place all over the world. We are anticipating a growing deployment of new devices.
So, all over Europe and in the world, electricity companies are modernizing their modem infrastructure. Public Power Corporation (PPC) in Greece did this in 2016, in the Middle East (Dubai, the Emirates, Saoudi Arabia) companies are upgrading their meters with the latest communication, large tenders are running in Morocco, etc.
Secondly with the breakthrough of the new LTE, NB-IoT technologies -and others-, and their integration in modules of leading chip manufacturers worldwide, a large upgrade of broad infrastructures all over the world can therefore be expected! Not only CSD, but also the long-standing GPRS will be replaced by these new technologies at some point.
Indeed, some telecom operators in Europe and the rest of the world are planning to close their GPRS network and replace it with 3G and 4G / LTE.
Anticipating these new emerging technologies Bausch Datacom has developed the InduBox GSM M4 modem. The InduBox GSM M4 modem builds on the solid tradition of the InduBox modem family since 2004. Currently, more than 70,000 InduBox modems are installed throughout Europe. In addition to built-in TLS security and an extra Ethernet port, the modem offers the unique Snap-in socket technology allowing you to add or swap modules at any point in the production cycle or after deployment in the field and to use 3G and/or 4G or even a future not yet existing technology across your deployment in larger infrastructures.
We interviewed Alex Bausch, one of the original founders of the company in the Netherlands and nowadays Board Counsellor of Bausch Datacom. He shines a light on the Bausch Datacom modem technology and recent products.
Alex Bausch: A large upgrade of electricity meter infrastructures for industrial & residential customers is taking place and all over the world more numbers can be anticipated!
Bausch News: 'Nowadays, what is of key importance in modems for electricity meter reading, what are meter suppliers and electricity companies looking for?'
They are looking for new communication technologies and this means of course, the need for speed, medium data rate requirements and longer life span of the modules.
A crucial aspect is the use of new wireless communication possibilities such as Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technologies, which will cover a much longer life span - such as the term Long term Evolution already implies - compared to earlier technologies such as GPRS and EDGE, 3G and others.
The necessary shift from circuit switched communication (pay by duration using telephone numbers) to packet switched communication (pay per load of data using IP) was in the past years slowed down due to the hesitant position of the Utility companies, questioning the choice of GPRS, 3G and others.
With the breakthrough of the new LTE, NB IoT technologies -and others, and their integration in modules of leading chip manufacturers worldwide, a large upgrade of broad infrastructures all over the world can therefor be anticipated! Not only CSD data, but also GPRS will at one point be replaced by these new technologies.
A crucial aspect is the use of new wireless communication possibilities such as Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technologies
Especially for meter communication upgrades of existing infrastructure, we will see a shift to LTE Cat. 1, but especially LTE Cat. M1 (much more than the NB IoT variant). LTE 'M' is a low-power wide-area (LPWA) air interface that lets you connect IoT and M2M devices with medium data rate requirements. For instance, it enables greater in-building range, as compared to standard cellular technologies such as 2G, 3G, or higher LTE categories. It is the ideal solution for meter applications, which still differ from the typical IoT applications.
Security issues in the 'smart grid market'
Also, of no lesser importance and certainly not confined to the modem market, are the security issues that have been invading the industrial and energy market in the last few years. After the global hacking and fake news themes which polluted global politics up to the highest level, one can imagine that tampering with Electricity Invoicing and Control is just another interesting target for those with bad intentions. For the next years, the certification issue will surely be present in future installations, although I am not sure this will result in the integration of protection in the modem itself.
Remote Mass Management
Last, but not least, when you equip vast infrastructures of modems connected to meters, you need to have systems that can manage this infrastructure. At a certain point in time, you could find yourself having to upload a new firmware on all these modems due to e.g. new requirements.
When you equip vast infrastructures of modems connected to meters, you need to have systems that can manage this infrastructure
In that case, one push on the button needs to suffice. Time is money, and maintenance costs a whole lot of money. That is why Bausch Datacom is also investing in mass and grouped management of modem infrastructures.
Bausch News: 'How do you see the future of the meter- and communication technology evolving?'
It is an undeniable trend for sure that communication technology has firmly settled down in the utility – electricity – market for some years now, but particularly interesting nowadays is the crossover going on between smart metering, smart grids enabled by technology such as blockchain and AI. Also, everything needs to function immediately and securely. That is the key. Blockchain is key in enabling autonomous resilient grids. Also, everything needs to function immediately and securely. That is the key.
I believe that more and more big players in the meter manufacturing market are looking at specialized companies with their own field of expertise, and I mean security companies, modem manufacturers and so on. These days, there is no monolithic, static type of meter manufacturer anymore. The energy market has become too complex.
Bausch News: 'Why team up with a modem manufacturer such as Bausch Datacom?'
Well, If I speak for the Belgian situation, which I am most familiar with, Bausch Datacom has been a part of the modem market for industrial meter reading since 2003. Firstly, by gaining its first big project with iTron supplying to the former Electrabel. Since then, iTron and Bausch Datacom had a continual successful run proposing a well-oiled meter-modem machine to the Belgian DSO's. If we just take a look at the RMA numbers of defective modems in those 15 years, the conclusion is obvious, this is simply very solid hardware! However, that does not mean that we work exclusively with a specific meter brand. In many countries other big suppliers of meters have their installed base and need communication upgrade.
Since 2003, iTron and Bausch Datacom had a continual successful run proposing a well-oiled meter-modem machine to the Belgian DSO’s.
You can find all information for InduBox GSM M4 on: https://www.bausch.eu/products/modems-routers/indubox-gsm-m4
Business Development Mgr. Bausch Datacom
+32 (0)16 46 12 88 – firstname.lastname@example.org