Utilities’ Adoption of Public Cellular Networks for Smart Grid to Drive Shipments of 73 Million M2M Communication Nodes Worldwide by 2020

According to a new report from Pike Research, increased utility adoption of public wireless networks around the world will drive the cumulative shipment of 73 million cellular M2M communication nodes for use in smart grid applications during the period from 2011 through 2020.

Public cellular networks are ubiquitous around most of the world, and depending on the network technology, feature exceptional data capacity, high transfer rates, and a high level of responsiveness to support near real-time data communications. Utilities have long employed public cellular networks for a variety of applications, but the deployment of such networks has traditionally been limited in scope due to a relatively restrictive pricing structure and certain technological limitations. Now, however, as utilities continue to roll out smart grid infrastructure, including smart meters, distribution automation, and substation automation, they are increasingly utilizing the public cellular networks to handle their machine-to-machine (M2M) communications infrastructure, often in conjunction with private networks using a wide diversity of technologies.

The cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts that global unit shipments will peak at 10.7 million units annually in 2015, coinciding with the peak in the buildout of neighborhood area networks (NANs) for smart meter connectivity, before unit volumes gradually decline to 8.2 million nodes annually by 2020. Revenue from the sale of cellular communication nodes to utilities will reach $1.9 billion during the forecast period.

Research Director Bob Gohn:

“Public wireless networks are emerging as a more important complement to private utility communication networks.”

“Few utilities will rely on just one network, but cellular connectivity will be an important part of the mix in neighborhood area networks and wide area networks for smart meters, as well as other key applications like distribution automation, substation automation, and mobile workforce communications.”

Pike Research’s analysis indicates 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. 2G air interface technologies such as GSM/GPRS/EDGE and 1xRTT, despite their age and technological limitations, will capture 25% of the smart grid market. And emerging 4G networks will represent the fastest growing segment of the smart grid market; LTE networks will represent a 19% share of the total utility market between 2011 and 2020, with WiMAX networks capturing 2% of the public carrier market for smart grid applications.

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