SmartSynch, a smart-grid technology company using standard IP communications via cellular networks, introduced a code division multiple access (CDMA) smart-grid solution for use over Verizon’s cellular network. Now, the residential utility market can combine Verizon’s wireless 3G data network with SmartSynch's open standards, IP-to-the-endpoint smart-grid solution to deliver grid intelligence to and from any device, said Campbell McCool, chief marketing officer. McCool said among other benefits, the system can relieve utilities from the expense and burden of network management.

“It’s a fully integrated offering including hardware, software and managed services,” he said. “We help a utility who has a conventional grid upgrade into a smart grid — which is just a digital, interactive grid.”

SmartSynch has been proving smart-grid solutions using cellular networks since 2000. The company works with all meter manufacturers, and then adapts each meter by installing a proprietary chipset and antenna under the glass that turns it into an interactive smart meter. The company uses the existing, cellular networks as the communication backbone, instead of building the network from scratch. McCool said the system eliminates the need for a utility to manage a wireless network.

“Utilities are in the utility business,” McCool said. “They are not in the network communications business. So by using our system, they can let the carrier worry about the network problems.”

By using existing carrier networks, smart grids can be deployed immediately and activated as soon as the first sensor is installed. In comparison, mesh networks need to be built out to a certain density level before it becomes optimized for activation, McCool said. Bandwidth availability also is an issue. Current applications including automatic meter reading are low-bandwidth. But as utilities expand and ask smart grids to perform complex functions — such as time-of-usage billing, load control verification and outage management notification — mesh networks won’t be robust enough without substantial infrastructure upgrades, he said.

“The cellular networks can handle all of that … and so it’s going to give the utility an ability to expand into more complex services,” McCool said.

McCool added that cellular also is cheaper compared to mesh networks.

“The price to a utility to use the cellular networks for the smart grid had dropped dramatically in the last 12 months — as much as 95%,” he said.