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Thai utilities need a licensed spectrum smart grid network for Mission Critical IoT


Thailand, like a lot of countries in Asia Pacific, is on the verge of becoming a smart grid nation.

Soon, the Provincial Electric Authority (PEA) is scheduled to roll out a smart grid pilot project in Pattaya, installing 120,000 smart meters in the process.

This is a major stepping stone in the Thailand 4.0 journey.  And we believe it is only a matter of time before the Metropolitan Electric Authority and PEA unveil even greater national plans to add smart meters to the Thai power and water grid. 

This is positive news for Thailand – smart meters will help the PEA and MEA to reduce costs, save energy and improve performance on CO2 emissions.

But with these changes, come several decisions that Thai utility leaders need to make.  Some of these decisions will impact the effectiveness of the Thai smart grid and how well the smart grid will drive benefits for Thai people.  And some of the decisions utility executives need to make will impact the security and safety of Thailand’s critical national infrastructure.

We believe very strongly that the only safe and secure way to implement a smart grid in Thailand is to use a licensed spectrum to enable communications between the smart meters deployed to homes and businesses and the utilities.  

This is the approach the UK government took when they unveiled a major project to put smart meters in millions of homes and small businesses by 2020 across the UK’s entire northern region.The licensed spectrum approach is gaining momentum with governments around the world. 

There are a few reasons the UK government choose licensed spectrum for their smart grid.

First, as billions of IoT devices are coming into existence, the UK government decided that utilities deserve their own spectrum so as not to compete for bandwidth with other, non-critical IoT devices.  For example, we now have a plethora of non-essential IoT devices such as IoT toilets, IoT tableware and even IoT cosmetics.  The UK government’s position was that data from these devices should notshare bandwidth for something as important asMission Critical IoT devices deployed by national utilities.

Secondly, the UK government decided to prioritize the fact that licensed solutions are more secure than unlicensed solutions and offer greater protection against intentional interference or jamming.  Given the potential national security implications of interference in the national power grid, the UK and many other governments chose the licensed spectrum for its security attributes.

So, for these reasons, the UK government chose the licensed spectrum – and today we see more and more government’s following this path.

Given the growth in the sheer numbers of devices being connected to the internet, this was a wise decision made by the UK.According to Gartner, by the end of this year, there will be more than 6 billion connected devices in the world.  And experts predict nearly half a billion connected devices in Thailand by 2020. 

No doubt, IoT developments are good for Thai economic and social development.  The Internet of Things offers many opportunities to grow the economy, improve quality of life and meet the needs of the underserved. Just as the Thai public sector was instrumental in enabling the development and deployment of the Internet, it should play a similar role in the Internet of Things to ensure its success.  This is how the IoT can develop in Thailand.

So, given the massive proliferation of new IoT devices and the economic and social implications, the decision about using licensed versus unlicensed spectrums is a significantone for Thai utility executives to make.  Given the prioritization of security and the nation’s plans for Thailand 4.0, we are confident utility executives will make the right choice by selecting licensed spectrums for Thailand’s smart grid roll-out.

Ultimately, the licensed spectrum smart grid network will lead to Thailand’s competitive advantage.  It will lead to a secure Thailand – and will drive the best results for Thailand’s sustainable development.

Arthur Chu is an expert in smart grid technology and works with electric and water utility executives across the Asia Pacific region.  Sensus is currently deploying the largest smart metering project in the world in cooperation with the UK government, where more than 10 million homes are being  connected to smart meter technology.

Published : November 22, 2016

By : Arthur Chu  Special To The Nation