Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

PLC to decline despite smart meter growth, says Berg

Steve Rogerson
October 25, 2017
 
Annual shipments of smart electricity meters in Europe will grow by 71 per cent in 2017 to reach 23.1 million units, according to a research report from M2M and IoT analyst firm Berg Insight. But a decline in powerline communications (PLC) meters is forecast.
 
Growth is driven by accelerating deployments in France, Italy and the UK that coincide with the final phase of the nationwide rollout in Spain.
 
The great majority of the devices deployed in 2017 used PLC. But in 2018, shipments of PLC smart meters are expected to start to decline, even as the market remains strong. Instead radio-based technologies such as 4G cellular (LTE-M and NB-IoT) and RF mesh will increase their market shares
 
“France and Spain will be the last major countries in Western Europe to deploy pure-play PLC smart metering,” said Tobias Ryberg, senior analyst at Berg Insight. “Italy is switching to hybrid PLC-RF communications for improved reliability in the second-generation rollout starting this year. The UK and the Netherlands focus on 2G and 4G cellular technologies and in Scandinavia, RF mesh networks have come to dominate the market.”
 
Berg Insight believes IoT-optimised cellular technologies such as LTE-M, NB-IoT and RF mesh networks will steadily increase their market shares in smart metering over the next five to ten years. The shift from 2G to 4G and 5G will eventually offer improved performance at lower cost.
 
LTE-M will probably be the most suitable alternative for smart electricity metering, while NB-IoT will cover the needs in smart gas and water metering. At the same time, the standardisation of RF mesh networks by the Wi-Sun Alliance and other standard bodies has a good potential for establishing a thriving ecosystem for connected products in the smart cities and smart energy markets.
 
In a separate report, Berg says the installed base of smart gas meters in Europe will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 37.8 per cent between 2016 and 2022 to reach 62.0 million units at the end of the period. Deployments of smart gas meters on the European market accelerated in 2017 as the number of installed devices reached 17.3 million.
 
The growth is mainly driven by nationwide rollouts in France, Italy, Netherlands and UK. Italy is the largest market with annual demand projected to peak at more than five million units towards the end of the decade. France entered the mass-rollout phase in 2017 and the UK market is expected to take off in 2018. In the Netherlands, the full-scale rollout is already underway and will continue until the early 2020s.
 
The European smart gas meters use various communications methods, including fixed RF networks and local interfaces to master electricity meters. Short-range radio communications using the 169MHz band is the de-facto networking standard in France and Italy where smart gas meters are deployed independently of smart electricity meters.
 
In the UK and Netherlands, local wired or wireless interfaces are used for transmitting readings via the customer’s smart electricity meter. Several vendors have performed successful trials of using NB-IoT networks for connecting smart gas meters in the past year.
 
“Berg Insight expects that smart gas metering will become one of the first high-volume applications for NB-IoT,” said Ryberg. “The combination of low data volumes and the need for ten plus year battery operation is an ideal match.”