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Updated: Smart grid analyst Jesse Berst wasn’t kidding when he said companies are in a frenzy repositioning themselves to grab a piece of the smart grid market. The latest is the second largest cell phone company in the U.S.: AT&T (s T). This morning, AT&T says it is working with smart meter technology maker SmartSynch to provide its wireless network for residential installations using SmartSynch’s smart meter technology.
SmartSynch and AT&T already have a partnership whereby AT&T’s wireless network is used to connect smart meters at commercial and industrial locations to around 100 different utilities’ back offices. This morning’s announcement is an expansion of that business into the residential market.
SmartSynch is a decade-old company based in Jackson, Miss., that makes a smart meter system that uses Internet protocol (IP) networks, like cellular or Wi-Fi, to connect smart meters at buildings to utilities. The benefit of SmartSynch’s system for utilities is that they don’t have to build their own network to run smart meters, they can use existing networks, which means a much lower cost to deploy the system.
While AT&T has been using its network for smart meter deployments for awhile, this new extension is a bet on the growth of the smart meter residential market. U.S. utilities are just starting to do trials of smart meters in homes in select regions, but with the stimulus package injecting billions into the smart meter and smart grid markets, utilities and companies are getting ready to take advantage of dramatic growth this year. President Barack Obama has called for the installation of 40 million smart meters and 3,000 miles of transmission lines.
A buildout of the smart grid could also be one of the largest creators of wealth in the decade. As Berst said recently, the smart grid will “spawn new Googles (s GOOG) and Microsofts (s MFST),” and is “akin to the transcontinental railroad, the phone system, the interstate highway system and the Internet.” Of course AT&T wants a piece of that.