Solved

If there's no mobile signal in my area, should I still get a smart meter fitted?

  • 27 November 2018
  • 38 replies
  • 5008 views

is there any point in my having a smart meter installed as there is no mobile signal from any network where I live? Can smart meters communicate over WiFi or WiFi Calling for example?
icon

Best answer by Transparent 30 November 2018, 11:12

Updated on 12/03/21: Not got a smart meter yet? Book in your S2 meter fitting appointment, here. You'll need your account number to book this in, which you can find in your online account, here.

Info on S2 meter installations here and a smart meter FAQ here.

The info below is taken from this topic on engineer jobs and issues. 
 

Poor signal


Why does this cause an abort?

If you have no phone signal anywhere near your electricity meter, we won’t do the exchange, as the meter wouldn’t have smart functionality.

How do we resolve this?
​​​​​​

If the meter has been installed and has no communication, then there might be further steps we could do to solve the issue. See this topic on a meter health check for Secure smart meters, and this topic on a meter health check for Aclara or Honeywell smart meters.
 

Meters too far apart


Why does this cause an abort?

If your gas and electricity meters are 10 meters or more apart from one another, it is unlikely the HAN signal will stretch this far and this would lead to a non communicative gas meter. See this topic for more info on what this means for your S2 appointment. 

How do we resolve this?

  • For S1 meters, we might be able to send a relay in the post. Reach out to our Support team and be ready to confirm if: the meters are in meter boxes/cupboards; whether you in a house/flat; and the distance between the meters. 
  • For S2, we currently have no way to boost the signal between the meters. You can choose to move the meters closer to one another via your Gas Transporter or their DNO. Reach out to them directly for advice on this.

 

Hi @Windrushvalley

Firstly, the signal strength is checked as part of the installation process. It's up to the Installer to get it right - not you!

Secondly, many Smart Meters can have external GSM aerials fitted to overcome such problems. You could make mention of the possibility of one being needed when you arrange the appointment.

Thirdly, the data format used for transferring information to/fro your Smart Meter is different to that used for mobile phone calls, even though they use the same frequencies for transmission. The data-packet has plenty of error-checking and error-correction in it. So it's a fairly robust system.

Finally; no... it will never be the case that Smart Meters are permitted to operate across WiFi links, or any other internet delivery system. This would leave the security of our UK Energy Supply system open to cyber attack from malicious 3rd-parties.

Even your Energy Supplier cannot directly communicate with a Smart Meter. All traffic is sent via the Data Communications Company (DCC) who employ a high-level encryption system approved by GCHQ.

It was the need to get this data encryption system re-tested which caused the 6 month delay in S2 meters being rolled out.

Search for an appointment here.

View original

38 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +2
@Windrushvalley I live in the country side where signal isn't all that great and I have had zero issues with my meter readings being submitted. I would highly recommend you get them installed. That way, no need to stress having to manually input the numbers yourself 🙂
Userlevel 7
Badge +4

Updated on 12/03/21: Not got a smart meter yet? Book in your S2 meter fitting appointment, here. You'll need your account number to book this in, which you can find in your online account, here.

Info on S2 meter installations here and a smart meter FAQ here.

The info below is taken from this topic on engineer jobs and issues. 
 

Poor signal


Why does this cause an abort?

If you have no phone signal anywhere near your electricity meter, we won’t do the exchange, as the meter wouldn’t have smart functionality.

How do we resolve this?
​​​​​​

If the meter has been installed and has no communication, then there might be further steps we could do to solve the issue. See this topic on a meter health check for Secure smart meters, and this topic on a meter health check for Aclara or Honeywell smart meters.
 

Meters too far apart


Why does this cause an abort?

If your gas and electricity meters are 10 meters or more apart from one another, it is unlikely the HAN signal will stretch this far and this would lead to a non communicative gas meter. See this topic for more info on what this means for your S2 appointment. 

How do we resolve this?

  • For S1 meters, we might be able to send a relay in the post. Reach out to our Support team and be ready to confirm if: the meters are in meter boxes/cupboards; whether you in a house/flat; and the distance between the meters. 
  • For S2, we currently have no way to boost the signal between the meters. You can choose to move the meters closer to one another via your Gas Transporter or their DNO. Reach out to them directly for advice on this.

 

Hi @Windrushvalley

Firstly, the signal strength is checked as part of the installation process. It's up to the Installer to get it right - not you!

Secondly, many Smart Meters can have external GSM aerials fitted to overcome such problems. You could make mention of the possibility of one being needed when you arrange the appointment.

Thirdly, the data format used for transferring information to/fro your Smart Meter is different to that used for mobile phone calls, even though they use the same frequencies for transmission. The data-packet has plenty of error-checking and error-correction in it. So it's a fairly robust system.

Finally; no... it will never be the case that Smart Meters are permitted to operate across WiFi links, or any other internet delivery system. This would leave the security of our UK Energy Supply system open to cyber attack from malicious 3rd-parties.

Even your Energy Supplier cannot directly communicate with a Smart Meter. All traffic is sent via the Data Communications Company (DCC) who employ a high-level encryption system approved by GCHQ.

It was the need to get this data encryption system re-tested which caused the 6 month delay in S2 meters being rolled out.

Search for an appointment here.

I have no mobile phone coverage where I live. Do I still have to have a smart meter? 

Userlevel 7
Badge +4

Thanks for posting here @John Coquet 

Firstly there is no obligation for anyone to have a Smart Meter fitted. But there are products starting to emerge which rely on the Smart Meter for their operation. It’s a lot more than just a way for readings to be sent to your Energy Supplier.

Secondly, the mobile phone signal may not be an issue. It depends whereabouts you live. For example most of Northern England and all of Scotland uses a series of 700 transmitter masts operating on the old ITV1 broadcast frequency of 400MHz.

Equally, in rural areas of Wales and the Westcountry, the Smart Meters automatically form themselves into a Mesh Network, relaying the data across vast areas of countryside which aren’t directly accessible to the Telefonica Smart Meter Network on their mobile-phone masts. I have just such a system operating at my house.

All these different connectivity patterns are drawn up on a map which is checked when someone first makes an enquiry for a Smart Meter.

Let us know here if you’d like any further clarification.

OVO installed two “SMART” meters at my home (one for the house another for the workshop) despite me telling them there is no mobile signal here from any network. Old meters serial number beginning 14P as good as useless. The remote display is very basic and also as good as useless. 

Userlevel 7
Badge +4

Thanks for posting this @Peter bethania 

The lack of mobile signal may not be a problem. Have a look what I wrote about the Mesh Network here.

Does the Communications Hub on top of your electricity meter say SKU1 or SKU2 on it?

I can’t see either SKU1 or SKU2 on the meter

 

I live very rurally *edited by mod* nearest neighbour 200 Metres and next at least 1Km so I would have thought no mesh.

Userlevel 7
Badge +3

Hi @Peter bethania .

That definitely looks like it’s a SMETS1 Meter then. A SMETS2 meter would start with something like 19M or 19K as those two letters indicate a SMETS2. And by the looks of things, you have an SKU1 there as well.

@Transparent will almost certainly have some good advice. here as well. Based on your hub only having two lights (and a quick look up of the Secure Liberty 100 meter), it doesn’t have look like it has mesh features built in. So that won’t work anyway sadly.

Userlevel 7
Badge +3

Just to be sure though. Does your meter look like this one?

Userlevel 7
Badge +4

Apologies @Peter bethania , when you wrote

OVO installed two “SMART” meters at my home

I had incorrectly assumed that this was recent occurrence. The photo you’ve posted is of an electricity meter (and Communications Hub) which was originally installed running SMETS1 software. The install date was therefore prior to 16th March 2019, I presume?

Are you telling us that this meter has never worked?

All SMETS1 meters manufactured by Secure will by now have been upgraded to run SMETS2 software. As of 30th July 2020, they are being migrated onto the National Smart Meter Network. This means that they can be adopted by any Energy Supplier you chose.

The meter has never worked.

I think they continued with installation, despite me saying there was no mobile network available, to hit installation targets. They even came out to see if they could fit an external antenna. No point in antenna of any kind if no signal.

Userlevel 7
Badge +4

This should no longer be a problem @Peter bethania 

Have a look at what I wrote here about the SMETS2 communications options last year. There are now two further technical enhancements beyond the meter hardware which you were originally supplied with.

The signal strengths can be checked on the National Coverage Checker by OVO. If a Mesh network will suffice then they can attend themselves and install a new meter with an SKU2 Communications Hub.

If there are fewer than three other properties with Mesh capability in your area, then they will arrange for an engineer from the Data Communications Company (DCC) to bring you an SKU3 and a pair of aerials. They should be able to reach Builth Wells from where you are!

I’m in a rural part of Devon, and I have an SKU2 and one external aerial for medium-boost.

Recontact OVO by any of the methods on their Contact Centre, and ask for your site to be reassessed.

Userlevel 7

Fantastic community powered support here, @Transparent @Blastoise186 - hope it’s been helpful, @Peter bethania 

 

One thing to question though:

 

All SMETS1 meters manufactured by Secure will by now have been upgraded to run SMETS2 software. As of 30th July 2020, they are being migrated onto the National Smart Meter Network. This means that they can be adopted by any Energy Supplier you chose.

 

Did we not work out the timeframes for this upgrade were from September 2020 - September 2021? 

Userlevel 7
Badge +4

That time-frame is for the migration to the Data Communications Company@Tim_OVO 

The meters should’ve been upgraded by now with code from Secure. If not, then how could OVO have already started migrating customers since 30th July?

Also if they have been installed in a no signal area then they can never be remotely upgraded.

Userlevel 7
Badge +3

That’s a very good point @Peter bethania .

In theory, it may be possible to do a Local Firmware Upgrade if an engineer stops by for a visit though. It probably wouldn’t solve the signal issues, but at least it could potentially help to prepare such meters for the future, just in case they suddenly start to get a signal.

Even if by that point the firmware was massively outdated again, at least it would be on SMETS2 (or later) code and have a chance of catching up remotely.

Userlevel 7
Badge +4

That’s why I stated that your meters will need to be physically replaced @Peter bethania :slight_smile:

If you’d like me to go into greater technical detail, then I can do so. But I tend to hold back unless someone asks me to explain why I’ve given a particular diagnosis or piece of advice!

 

Local Firmware upgrades are not possible, @Blastoise186. The requirement for over-the-air upgrades was written into the original specifications back in 2013.

Local upgrades would be a security risk, and prohibited by NCSC. We need to remember that the majority of homes now have meters accessible from an external box, all of which use the same triangular key. :scream:  There cannot be any method by which the firmware in a part of the SMETS system could be altered by visiting the site.

Userlevel 7
Badge +3

Ah yes, that’s true. I should have seen that one coming, not least because I read a lot of NCSC stuff…

Either way, chances are the meter would be upgradable if it ever does start picking up a signal. It’s possible that coverage will improve over time, so it’s not game over yet at least.

Userlevel 1

I want to have a Smart meter installed and we do have mobile signal in our area.
However, the problem is that my house is a Faraday box because of an airtightnerss membrane (perforated aluminium foil) which blocks signal, so we get no mobile signal inside the house. So, Western Power would have to move the supply and my meter outside (VERY expensive exercise ~£800+) for a Smart meter to work. My idea was to have an external aerial to enable comms between indoor Smart meter and the outside world using a Toshiba ??SKU3 mentioned by @transparent on the community board.

Unfortunately my communication with OVO has led me to a brick wall so far.
Can you offer help?

Userlevel 5

Hey @Luppitt,

 

Thanks for posting and welcome to the forum!

 

I’ve moved your message over here, so there’s a bit more visibility for you, as most people will look at pre-existing topics for questions and answers!

 

The info above is quite handy, but yours is a rather unique situation! I’m sure forum expert @Transparent will be able to give you a great insight into what would be best in your situation!

Userlevel 7
Badge +4

I’m on the case @Ed_OVO 

@Luppitt and I have already been exchanging PMs.

I actually think his case isn’t as unique as you might first suppose. In fact it will become increasingly common as more houses are retro-fitted with insulation that is aluminium-faced. That’s a topic which definitely needs to be aired more on the open-Forum.

I’m just busy trying to fault-report another couple of issues, then I’ll return here to explain what will and won’t work for Luppitt’s site. It’s not just the technicalities; there are also rules to obey!

Userlevel 5

I figured you’d be on the case! Looking forward to the update, scary to think that this could be a regular occurrence, unless our technology is prepared for it.

Userlevel 1

I have now been told by OVO customer service definitively that they cannot/will not provide external T2 comms aerial to support a SMETS 2 communication with WAN.

I have followed up with an email which I hope will be directed to the SMART meter installation team in case they take a different view.

I agree I think this is going to be a common problem as a lot of new homes built to higher energy standards will have airtightness membranes fitted.

Userlevel 7
Badge +4

Thanks for that update @Luppitt 

I’m just going to back-track a couple of steps to explain the situation. We need to remember that others will come across this Topic in future and I want to make it as clear as I can what the issue is.

SMETS2 installations have a Communications Hub which sits atop the electricity meter. This stores usage data and provides a link between the on-site equipment (meters and In Home Device) and the National Smart Meter Network.

The on-site equipment links to the Comms Hub on what we call the Home Area Network, whilst the external link is called the Wide Area Network.

Most sites are fitted with a Comms Hub of type SKU1. Both the HAN and WAN aerials are internal.

On some sites there isn’t a direct line of site between the Comms Hub and any of the Telefonica masts which provide the WAN in the south and central regions of GB. This is most commonly overcome by using a local MESH Network which relays the signals between houses in rural areas. The Comms Hub which has MESH support is an SKU2 and will be fitted with an external aerial.

Communication Hubs

The external aerial may be of several types and is usually placed close to the meter-box on the outside of the house

 

The choice of Comms Hub and aerials isn’t solely with the customer’s Energy Supplier. There is a national map which shows signal coverage in fine detail for the whole of GB and this is consulted by the Energy Supplier when undertaking the pre-installation checks.

For example, a MESH Network can’t be formed unless there are 4 or more houses which use it in the area. It is the national map which allocates these sites.

In the case of sites where there is insufficient signal for connection to the nearest Telefonica mast, the Energy Supplier informs the Data Communications Company (DCC) using a Service Request Form:

DCC Communications Hub Installation; Appendix 1

 

It is DCC’s engineers who then attend the site and fit an SKU3 variant of the Comms Hub.

 

An SKU3 has an additional SMA connector for an external aerial which is bolted to the outside wall of the house. The Energy Supplier still books the installation, and may also attend on that date, but it is DCC who commission the WAN connection.

Reply