Verizon, Itron Hook Up to Offer Smart Grid Communications

Includes: ITRI, T, VZ
by: Greentech Media

By Jeff St. John

Telecommunications giant Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and leading smart meter maker Itron (NASDAQ:ITRI) want utilities to know they’ve linked up on getting energy data from smart meters to utilities.

The partnership announced Wednesday links Itron’s radio mesh communications, which connect meter to meter and meters to concentrator points, to Verizon’s wireless networks, which carry the data back to utility central offices.

It isn’t a new way to bridge that gap. Verizon is working with Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) on a similar project, and other utilities are looking at cellular networks — along with other options like fiber-optic and broadband over powerline — to carry those “backhaul” comminications, noted Ben Schuman, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities.

Nor does this mean that Itron plans to use Verizon’s networks to connect individual homes’ smart meters, Schuman noted.

That’s something that AT&T (NYSE:T) announced it would do with smart meter networking provider SmartSynch earlier this month, and something KORE Telematics is already doing using AT&T’s wireless network to connect an eventual 800,000 smart meters being installed by utility Arizona Public Service (see Your Electrical Meter Becomes a Cell Phone).

However, Schuman did see Wednesday’s announcement as another sign that telecommunications giants are jumping on the smart grid bandwagon, similar to signs that Verizon and AT&T are looking at providing home energy monitoring and control devices directly to customers (see Verizon to Add Energy Management to FiOS and Are Telcos Eyeing Home Energy Management?)

With $4.5 billion in stimulus grants set to be doled out to smart grid projects, there’s good reason to get involved, he noted.