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Data traffic over the smart meter network set to increase 500%

There are now over 21 million smart meters installed in Britain. Image: Getty.

There are now over 21 million smart meters installed in Britain. Image: Getty.

There is set to be a 500% increase in data traffic over the smart meter network over the next four years, according to the Data Communications Company (DCC).

In its 2022 Business and Development Plan, it has highlighted progress over the past year and set out forecasts for how to improve its services while working to reduce costs over the next five years.

To support this, it is currently building new hardware and software solutions, including centralised data caching, enhanced traffic prioritisation, optimising read scheduling and the wide deployment of compression, to help enable the dramatic increase in smart meters and data.

Over the past financial year, the network of smart meters in Britain grew by 8.5 million meters, meaning there are currently more than 21 million meters connected.

The network’s growth has been compounded by new changes that will increase the number of meter readings being sent, leading to a significant increase in data volumes, noted the DCC.

Currently, many meters send readings once a day, but increasingly they are providing readings more frequently as consumers look to take advantage of smart tariffs, and operators and suppliers look to gain greater and faster insights on usage.

With Market-wide Half-Hourly Settlement meaning all meters will need to have the ability to produce half hourly readings in the future, still more consumers – in particular those with electric vehicles or heat pumps – are expected to take advantage of smart tariffs soon.

By increasing the number of messages sent, the grid will be able to see energy usage sooner and in more granularity, the DCC noted.

This will help accelerate Britain’s move to low-carbon energy generation by increasing the operators ability to balance the grid by providing it with more up to date and deeper data.

Monthly Messages 2021-22. Image: DCC.
Monthly Messages 2021-22. Image: DCC.

The DCC network now relays in a single day the same amount of data it was carrying in a whole month two years ago according the company’s CEO Angus Flett said.

“We’ve now surpassed 1 billion messages sent across our network in a month. We expect a further 500% increase in traffic over the next few years, as the network more than doubles in size, accommodating extra demand like half-hourly meter readings,” he continued.

“The DCC network was designed for these traffic increases, and our five-year roadmap shows how we’ll be working with our customers and service providers to ensure we’re ready for this high energy data future. Our mission is to make Britain more connected, so we can all lead smarter, greener lives.”

Back in April 2021, 427 million messages were being sent via the DCC network a month. By the end of that financial year, this had doubled to 870 million a month. For the 2021-22 financial year, more than 7.6 billion messages were sent in total.

The vast majority of these messages are meter readings, but changes to suppliers, firmware updates, prepayment credit top-ups and tariff updates are also sent via the DCC network, and vary in size between tens of bytes to around a megabyte.

Monthly predicted messages 2022-23. Image: DCC.
Monthly predicted messages 2022-23. Image: DCC.

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