Utility communications networks have traditionally used proprietary, application-specific technologies, which has been especially true for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). This, however, is now changing says Pike Research.

In a recent report, Pike Research has found emerging Smart Grid concepts are driving utilities to consider their communications networks as strategic assets, and to adopt standards-based technologies, built to support the Internet Protocol (IP) suite, as well as legacy protocols.

In response, vendors are rushing to deliver standards-compliant or standards-capable solutions.

In 2010, only 3 per cent of global shipments of radio frequency-based communications nodes for distribution automation and/or AMI applications were based on fully standard technologies. This figure will increase to more than 70 per cent by 2015, rising to more than 85 per cent by 2020, says Pike Research, which recently became part of Navigant’s Energy Practice.

“The promise of standards-based, multi-purpose utility networks is finally arriving,” says Bob Gohn, chief research director.

“While there is still room for innovative proprietary network elements, the momentum is clearly with standard IP-based wired and wireless technologies, whether provided by public carriers or on privately built networks.”

As utilities shift toward a fully integrated grid-wide communications system that will require more sophisticated and higher value networking and communications gear, this market will peak at $2.96bn in sales in 2014, before subsiding to just under $2.6bn per year in 2020, according to the report.

Pike Research believes the revenue peak in the middle of the decade will result from the convergence of major Smart Grid and smart meter deployments in China, Europe, and North America.

An executive summary of the report is available on the Pike Research website.

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