26 July 2023 Energy Data, Metering

2G and 3G sunset is on the horizon – what does it mean for your business energy meters?

2g mast

Recently, Mobile Network Operators in the UK announced their intention to “sunset” 2G and 3G networks in the UK by 2033 in order free up bandwidth for 4G and 5G networks. This will have implications for a number of technologies that still use 2G and 3G to communicate, and this includes both smart and advanced (AMR) energy meters.

It’s important for UK business to understand therefore how this change might impact them and how to prepare for it….

What is a 2G and 3G sunset?

When a mobile network operator (MNO) announces that a network will be sunsetted, they are planning to turn off the cellular infrastructure required for this network to operate. The 2G and 3G sunset is the gradual phasing out of the 2G and 3G networks. With newer and better network technologies being rolled out around the world, such as LTE and 5G, 2G and 3G are slowly being made redundant. Whilst the overall turn-off isn’t happening until 2033, some MNOs may switch off their 2G and 3G networks sooner than this.

How will the 2G and 3G sunset impact smart meters?

Smart meters in the UK operate on the 2G and 3G network, however contrary to many news reports, smart meters will not need to be replaced due to the phasing out of these networks. That is because a standard smart metering installation usually includes gas and electricity smart meters, an In-Home Display (if it is a domestic installation) and a communications hub.

It is in fact the communications hub that connects a smart meter to the national smart metering network via 2G/3G, and these hubs can be exchanged independently of the meter allowing the meter to remain in place. The industry is already working on a connectivity solution to ensure the smooth transition of communications services for smart meters beyond 2033 in a way that will have minimum impact on consumers and businesses.

Smart DCC, the national operator of the UK’s smart meter network, has published a helpful blog on this subject here.

How about advanced or AMR meters? Will they be affected by the 2G/3G sunset?

Yes, many gas and electric advanced (or AMR) meters – which are commonly installed in large non-domestic properties – also connect using the 2G (GPRS) network, as well as using other legacy communications networks such as Cellular Switched Data (CSD) and Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). With 2G GPRS, CSD and PSTN all being retired (CSD and PSTN as soon as 2025) it is expected that LTE, NB-IoT and LTE-M, which fall under the 4G and 5G umbrella, will be the new communication methods of choice.

What does that mean for businesses with AMR meters installed?

Whether your AMR meter will need to be exchanged depends on the model of your meter and when it was installed. As 4G compatible AMR meters have only begun to be installed relatively recently, it is likely one of the following scenarios will apply to ensure your meter retains its connectivity (allowing your meter data service provider to collect and aggregate your gas and electric consumption data for the purposes of billing and energy monitoring).

Over the air update: Some newer AMR models are installed “4G ready”, meaning a simple over-the-air (OTA) update prior to the 2G GPRS switch-off will allow your meter data service provider to continue to obtain the data remotely from the meter.

Modem/SIM Swap: Some AMR models have the advantage of being able to swap out their modems, meaning a simple site visit can be conducted to replace the existing 2G GPRS modem with a newer 4G modem, allowing you to keep your existing meter on the wall.

Meter/AMR Exchange: Many meters and loggers that are over the age of 10 years do not have the capability of having their modems swapped, meaning that a meter/data logger exchange is the only solution to ensure the AMR device has the connectivity capability to be fit for the future.

What do I need to do if the above applies to my business?

Whilst the sunsetting process and its impact on meters – both smart and AMR – might sound like it has the potential to cause disruption, in principle it won’t and there’s no need to worry. The metering industry, including energy suppliers and Meter Equipment Managers like SMS are well engaged in the phasing out of legacy networks and are planning well in advance of any switch offs.

All business customers who require a solution to upgrade their metering arrangement, whether an OTA update, modem swap, AMR exchange, or – if you have a smart meter installed – a replacement communication hub, will be notified by their supplier or appointed meter/data services provider regarding the solution required.

If SMS is your metering and data partner, we will endeavour to communicate this process to our customers in a timely and transparent manner, ensuring you have peace of mind over your meter set up long into the future and that there is zero impact on your operations.

It’s worth remembering that the transition to more modern communications networks will also bring with it opportunities for improved metering and data performance. For example, SMS is now working with solution providers to bring additional functionality (such as 10 second data) to AMR metering, an exciting development that we will communicate to our customers in due course.


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