A communications network is a foundational part of a utility Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) architecture, delivering bidirectional connectivity between smart meters and head-end utility systems. A common initial application utilizing the AMI network is centralized meter reading. This single application provides the utility with many benefits that result in reduced operating costs, improved operational efficiencies, and greater customer satisfaction.
Typically an AMI communications network is multi-tiered. Often an RF mesh is used for the tier 3 network, to connect smart meters to a metering collector. The tier 2 field area network provides backhaul of metering collectors to substations that connect to the tier 1 core IP network which then connects to the utility’s head-end system.
In addition to reading meters, many utilities are embarking on AMI plus, leveraging their AMI communications network to aggregate communications for a variety of applications beyond meter reading. Examples of these applications including remote service connect/disconnect, prepay services, demand-response, time-of-use pricing, power quality monitoring, outage management and more. However, as AMI plus applications are deployed, they place incremental demands upon the tier 2 AMI backhaul network for bandwidth, latency and reliability. Many utilities, will need to migrate their tier 2 network to a more robust communications network that meets these more demanding needs.