Where Can WiMAX Catch a Break? The Smart Grid


[qi:_earth2tech] WiMAX might be losing attention and mindshare from telcos in the U.S., but it’s another story entirely when it comes to that oh-so-buzzy sector the smart grid. Utilities across the globe are increasingly starting to test WiMAX-based smart grid networks, and this morning we have news of a major commercial deployment from a utility Down Under. Australian utility SP AusNet says it’s building out its own WiMAX-based network using smart meter software from startup Grid Net, WiMAX-based smart meters from GE (s GE) (with an Intel (s INTC) chip inside) and WiMAX networking gear from Motorola (s MOT).

SP AusNet’s John Steel said the utility chose WiMAX in general and Grid Net’s technology in particular because it wanted to build a network based on open standards, one that’s interoperable with a wide range of technologies. And by building the network itself rather than going with a WiMAX service provider, the company would get a more secure network that would be cost-effective in the long run. Building it will cost “hundreds of millions of dollars,” he noted.

Other utilities in the U.S., including CenterPoint, National Grid, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison are looking at ways to use WiMAX in smart grid deployments. SDG&E, for example, wants to use WiMAX for 30 percent of the network where higher bandwidth is required for applications like collecting large amounts of data on voltage, current and frequency in real time.

Grid Net’s other partners include Landis+Gyr, Cisco, Clearwire and Unwired Australia. The group is betting that the price point of WiMAX gear will come down dramatically if the technology gains traction. Grid Net CEO Ray Bell told us that WiMAX chipsets currently cost around $36, but predicted that in a year they’ll be closer to $12, and in another six months they could go as low as $8 or even $6.


Wes George

Please, please tell me they’re looking to go directly to IPv6 on this!


Oh the promises of WiMAX when it first was in development. For a time I imagined myself breaking free from the horrible monopoly that Time Warner Cable holds over my area (no FIOS even). Maybe if I click my heels and chant repeatedly, one day WiMAX will become a reality in one form or another.


Here we go again. The energy utilities thinking that they can build and run something they know nothing about and that will be obsolete in a few years.

They forget that their T&D systems are based on 100 year old technology, so they’ve never had to innovate.

Watch them waste billions of ratepayer dollars on the smart grid. I guarantee you, the consultants, system integrators and tech companies will make a ton of money. But in the end, there will $billions in waste and many smart grids will end up being stupid grids that don’t work at all. The ratepayers and taxpayers will suffer once again.

This failure will be bigger than the recent financial collapse.


“Grid Net CEO Ray Bell told us that WiMAX chipsets currently cost around $36, but predicted that in a year they’ll be closer to $12, and in another six months they could go as low as $8 or even $6.”

Seriously? a 70% price reduction in 12 months? It’s certainly believable that WiMAX ASICs sets will become more like WiFi in pricing than commercial wireless ASICs, but there will have to be some massive volume increases. How sensitive is that market to ASIC pricing anyway? Most commercial operations have relatively low volume, and, the associated modules and terminal equipment are much costlier than a mobile phone or USB stick.

Sounds like a good market for WiMAX. How high is the data rate from the grid that it needs multi-Mbps pipe from a single node?

Comments are closed.