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S2 smart meters in the Northern Territory using the Arqiva network - why isn't the meter able to connect to the WAN?

  • 23 February 2021
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It’s been a long story… Some while ago we were offered a SMETS1 smart meter, but we delayed until a SMETS2 was available. Then an engineer came to install a SMETS2 meter, and left saying something about no signal, leave it a while. The meter is in a lower ground floor area, with a mobile signal.

Finally, July 2020, new SMETS2 meter installed - not talking to the network, but wait a bit and it’ll ‘probably’ be OK. No IHD left. I thought that even if the thing couldn’t talk to Ovo at least an IHD would allow me to read the meter easily, so I requested one, which eventually arrived. Silly me, I didn’t realise that the meter - supposedly installed for MY benefit - wouldn’t talk to my home network if it couldn’t talk to OVO first.

After a while we got back to Ovo who said there was nothing they could do and we would have to move our meter, at our expense (approx £250) and hope the new position had a better signal. No guarantee of that. Then I asked for a smart gas meter, reasoning that the gas meter - in a higher location - may have a better signal. I didn’t know then that the gas meter unit will only talk to the electricity  meter unit.

A really nice and helpful chap came round to fit the gas meter, but actually spent all his visit trying to get the electricity meter unit working. After every possible effort he was forced to admit defeat and we are back to zero. But he did give us lots of interesting information.

Apparently the SMETS1 communication unit didn’t HAVE to be fitted right onto the meter and had a little aerial to help communication, seemed a good idea, why did that not make it to SMETS2?. Also the country is split in 2, the southern half has meters that talk to the mobile network - but up here in Morecambe the meters talk to a network run by Arqiva, who don’t talk to Ovo’s customers. Apparently signal problems are reported by the engineer to Arqiva, who should solve them - so why did Ovo ask US to move our meter?. 

But why can’t the stupid thing pass the data to Ovo via our home network?. Our home is full of things that talk to the world and don’t need Arqiva to do so. At the least it should send it’s reading to the IHD, I’m totally capable of taking all the data I need about saving energy from a meter reading thanks. 

So finally I’m going to fit a camera up to send me the meter readings, and when Ovo decide they would like the smart meter working then they can come and install a unit designed a little bit more intelligently and with a bit of flexibility. It might be more expensive , but would save them money in repeated engineer visits, and certainly cheaper than moving the electricity meter.

Our meter, or the comms unit, is an EDMI standard 420.

I hope this helps someone.

 

 

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Best answer by Tim_OVO 24 February 2021, 11:32

I’m afraid it’s not possible for smart meters to use the internet to submit readings. As part of the specs, it all has to go through dedicated and purpose-built networks. There’s more details about how it all works over at SmartMe. We use this resource on the forums a lot, as it helps us out a ton!

As you mentioned Arqiva, that confirms you’re in the Northern Territory. Unfortunately, the EDMI comms hubs used up there don’t support external aerials, so the meter might need to be repositioned in order to get a connection.

This should be free of charge though if it’s the only way to get the smart features to work.

As for an IHD, the Support Team can order one for you, but if your smart meters aren’t working, it’s not possible to pair up an IHD either.

 

I’ve quoted the bit of @Blastoise186’s reply I think covers everything. Please be advised that you would need to pay the charge for a meter relocation, which currently costs £125. Please see a full costing topic here.  

 

 

 

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Good afternoon @bingbongovo2021 .

It sounds like things have been a bit quirky there, but I can definitely try to offer advice.

Firstly, it’s not your fault if the meters aren’t communicating and you shouldn’t be expected to pay for remedial works in order to fix these issues.

I’m afraid it’s not possible for smart meters to use the internet to submit readings. As part of the specs, it all has to go through dedicated and purpose-built networks. There’s more details about how it all works over at SmartMe. We use this resource on the forums a lot, as it helps us out a ton!

As you mentioned Arqiva, that confirms you’re in the Northern Territory. Unfortunately, the EDMI comms hubs used up there don’t support external aerials, so the meter might need to be repositioned in order to get a connection.

This should be free of charge though if it’s the only way to get the smart features to work.

As for an IHD, the Support Team can order one for you, but if your smart meters aren’t working, it’s not possible to pair up an IHD either.

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To go into more detail however, is also something I can do.

SMETS2 meters do have support for external aerials as well, but only in the Southern Region right now, because only the Cellular comms hubs are able to work with one. These aerials basically act like mobile phone signal boosters, which is a lot more tricky to do for the Long-Range-Radio setup that Arqiva runs (but LRR generally has better coverage anyway).

The Northern Territory only does Long Range Radio, while the Southern Territory only does Cellular + Mesh as this was the technology that was chosen for both configurations. It can’t easily be changed later without rebuilding the entire infrastructure.

SMETS1 meters only had Cellular links, but this has other problems in areas with poor phone signal, so it’s sometimes best to use options that won’t be affected by this. This is part of the design for SMETS2 - to have support for multiple comms options.

Gas meters can't communicate with the supplier directly I’m afraid, as it would drain the internal battery way too quickly. If they were set up for that, a 10 year battery would become more like a 2 year battery and that’s even worse.

Thanks for the prompt rely Blastoise186, I assure you that I have Ovo’s email saying that I would have to move the meter at my expense if I want my smart meter to work. It certainly isn’t worth that much to me. Doubly so since they point out that the smart meter still may not work in it’s new location.  

Thanks for your link to the specs, and I see that indeed someone has decided that my energy usage is so secret that it can’t be sent over the internet via encoding. Maybe they should use what’s app :-). Seems a bit over the top to me and has obvious shortcomings, as we see. An expensive decision.

It seems odd to me that the smartme site describes in detail the upcoming steps to improve issues with the limited range of Zigbee, but is silent on what happens when the smart meters don’t talk to the WAN.   

The link shows us how many smart meters are installed, it doesn’t show how many are installed and not working, which would be interesting.

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You’re welcome @bingbongovo2021 .

The SmartMe website was created by people who are independent of OVO and other suppliers. The owners have a lot of advice, but not the access to that sort of data. It might be updated once the owner gets hold of more details on these things.

I work in cybersecurity myself and have had training in pen testing and ethical hacking. While it seems excessive, it’s more secure to do things this way than to trust unknown internet connections. I can assure you now that I know which setup I’d rather have, and it’s definitely not via the public internet!

As for the cost issues… I’m only a forum volunteer myself. However, I have yet to play my Joker Card and now seems a good chance. Waves at @Tim_OVO and @Amy_OVO .

It should be possible to run tests prior to install, to be absolutely sure it’ll work. Hang in there and I’ll see if I can get help on this.

Thanks again Blastoise186. Yes, I’d seen that the SmartMe guys are providing a very useful service from their own goodwill. We’re so lucky that people like that step in when providers leave massive gaps in their ‘information’ which is usually little more than an extended sales pitch.

It seems that the LRR solution used by Arqiva should have better penetration into hard to reach areas than GPRS, so it’s odd that GPRS is working and not LRR in our cupboard :-). Arqiva claim 99.5 % coverage - but we live in a decent sized town and the meter is not underground. 

 

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Yeah, that is something which is a bit strange. I begin to wonder if you’re too far from the nearest Arqiva owned/managed/operated transmission station to be able to get a signal down to the basement. Certainly if one is close by, then yup, the signal would easily blast your entire house without any trouble at all.

I’ve asked Tim to check whether you got the right advice. You are correct in that if you wanted the meters moved, that normally carries a charge. But there might be a different policy for issues like this one. Especially if moving the meter is the only solution!

There’s actually another bunch of reasons why it’s unsafe for smart meters to use the public internet for communications. Unfortunately, most of them are things that I can’t share on public forums like this one for security and legal reasons. But there’s practical concerns too, if you changed your Wi-Fi Router and forgot to set all your devices back up, at least having the smart meter run on Cellular or LRR means it won’t get booted off the connection.

My own network kit is extremely powerful, professional grade kit that includes a £300 Wi-Fi Router and I've got the most overpowered setup you could possibly imagine. But even that can’t guarantee getting a Wi-Fi signal to my smart meter at all times (too many thick, fire rated walls and way too much distance in a block of flats!). To get even my kit to reach far enough, I’d either have one of three choices.

  • Expand my wired network with yet more network switches to cover the distance and somehow break through the walls along the way to run cables
  • Set up a few more access points that I can mesh with my kit, using my wired network to link at least one of those back to my flat along the way
  • Break Ofcom rules about transmission power and crank up my kit beyond legal limits

The cheapest possible price for any of those would be at least another £500 or so, including installation and labour costs. My landlord would probably also hate me forever if I even tried to do any of those. Not that practical I’m afraid!

But it also caters for members who don’t have internet connections - otherwise you create a dependency loop which means that if the power goes out due to running out of credit on Pay-As-You-Go and knocks out the internet as a result, that could leave you stranded. Can’t get the power on? Sorry! No internet for you. Can’t get the internet up? Well, you can’t top-up your meters to get the power back on…

That’s the sort of thing you want to avoid!

I don’t think it’s a problem with my general location, for one thing Arqiva’s network is supposedly used for emergency services and lifeboat stations, and there is a lifeboat station about ½ mile away. I’ve just seen someone on another forum speculating that powerline adaptors cause interference that could upset the signal - I do have a powerline adapter running as it happens, but if there’s a known problem wouldn’t the Ovo engineer have asked me to turn it off?. Our TV signal is fine with a roof aerial in the loft.

I don’t suggest that the hubs ‘only’ use the internet, I’d just have thought that it could be a backup where the WAN is unavailable. Looking on the web you can find reliable looking reports that up to a third of SMETS2 meters are installed but not ‘smart’.

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Ooohhh… Hold on a second…

Powerline adaptors and HomePlugs huh? Hmm… Now you’re talking something curious here… They can be pretty horrible to use and can cause nightmares. While touted as being a way to improve your home network, they tend to make things worse more than they improve things…

OVO’s engineers aren’t allowed to fiddle with anything that’s unrelated to the job, and this includes network kit. I have personal experience from many years ago with powerline networking and it completely broke my network back then. My Wi-Fi only recovered after I ripped out the HomePlugs and posted them back to Amazon for a refund. Your TV Aerial won’t be affected as it’s likely out of the way and not directly plugged into any power sockets.

However, those HomePlugs would be on the same power cables as your electric meter and there’s nothing stopping them from reaching it. I begin to wonder if you’ve got a lead that could solve this puzzle.

And thanks for clarifying there! Yeah, I kinda agree with you as well. In a way, I would like to see a Dual-WAN capable comms hub that can run off LRR and Cellular+Mesh simultaneously, to cater for cases where one of the two falls down but the other works. Oh well… Unfortunately, that’s the way with government contracts. like these It’s all beyond OVO’s control. I’d be willing to bet that would solve many of the comms issues…

Probably something for a future SMETS3 I guess.

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Don't forget Arqiva operate all of the UK's 1150 TV transmitters, and 95%+ of all radio transmitters, they're not short of sites that can reach your home! 

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Hmm… Good points… I start to think that you’re almost certainly well within range. This is one of those times when I wish I had a spectrum analyser to play with…

The other factor I’m not sure about, is whether your smart meter was commissioned at all during install. If it’s not done at install, it can be done later at least. But that doesn’t help us right now.

I've been looking this stuff up and I do seriously start to suspect the culprit is those HomePlugs. Could you snap some photos of everything for me, as that might help with a few clues. But it’s looking very much like you might need to do away with the powerline networking kit at this rate.

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Thanks for hanging in there @bingbongovo2021 .

Ok, I think I have a final conclusion here. Unfortunately, I can’t find any resources despite digging pretty deep, so this is based only off my own personal knowledge and experience.

As such, I’m also going to ask @Tim_OVO to split this conversation out into a new thread, since it has effectively become a new and unique question by itself. It's worth noting that there have been reports of issues with the Arqiva setup in the Northern Territory, but I would have expected those to be fixed by now.

However, assuming that Arqiva isn’t crashing out, my diagnosis is very much pointed very heavily at HomePlugs and Powerline Networking devices. While Electric Vehicle Chargers can use Powerline Networking to allow the EV and Charger to communicate with each other, this is unlikely to cause issues by itself and I’d be shocked if that was causing nightmares.

Please also note that 802.3af/at Power over Ethernet is unrelated and also won't be a problem. I’ve got a post that’s in draft right now about PoE, which I hope to have out soon. I’ll add some notes about this as well.

The problem with HomePlugs is that they blindly “broadcast” the signal across your entire home - and potentially beyond that - with little to no control as to how or where it goes. As such, if it causes interference, you’re basically out of luck and the only fix is to remove the HomePlugs and migrate to another setup. Depending on your needs, a Mesh Wi-Fi setup might work better these days.

The ultimate problem here is that I suspect the Long Range Radio in the comms hub is getting messed up by your HomePlugs, the latter of which are making no attempt to step out of the way in order to avoid clashes. On top of that, it’s likely to be causing more radio interference by the fact it’s messing up the wiring in your house and creating some other kind of giant transceiver, so to speak. It’s likely to be drowning out anything Arqiva pumps out.

If my theory is correct and assuming your smart meter wasn't commissioned at install, you’ll likely need to ask OVO’s Support Team to commission the meter after you’ve knocked out the HomePlugs. There’s no charge for this service at all, and your meters won't be moved along the way. This is the sort of advice that you’d never be able to get from the Support Team of any supplier directly as it’s beyond their scope.

When you contact the team, please let them know you got advice from me on the forums and provide a link to this thread. I’m well known these days, so the mention of my username should be enough to help you along. If you then give the agent a few minutes to review the discussion, they should have an easier time getting up to speed.

Apologies for any initial confusion! I’ll try to get this moved into a new thread in the morning, to help keep this one focused.

Hi Blastoise186, Well, I can’t take a photo without having some idea of what you’re looking for, as a homeplug in a socket looks pretty much the same everywhere :-). We live in a four storey house and the homeplugs are on the first floor and third floor. For the vast majority of the time they are dormant and simply (I suppose) occasionally handshaking as the device the homeplug is connected to is usually switched off. The electricity meter is just under the front steps on the ground floor. I emphasise - in a location WITH a mobile phone signal. We never had any problem with interference after installing the plugs, everything else kept working fine.

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘commissioning’ the smart meter. For sure the latest engineer pulled out every stop to try to get it to talk to Ovo, including trying out a replacement unit - all the time in contact with a bod at HQ who was looking for a signal from us. But seemingly there was never a successful handshake although the led flashing rate did slow down a bit on the unit.

If these homeplugs do block LRR signals, I’m kind of surprised they can be sold, and that the Ovo engineer didn’t ask me if we were using any, I would have happily unplugged them for him. There must be hundreds of thousands of them in use, not good if emergency services rely on LRR.

Do you have any links that refer to this interference, I’ve looked again and can only find the one I stumbled across first time, which just suggested there could be a problem, with no documented support.

 

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Hi @bingbongovo2021 @Blastoise186 and @MarkC63 - a good read this one, and as requested I’ve moved it into its own topic thread. 

 

I think we’re not far from getting a ‘best answer’ for this one, although I can’t comment on things like Aqiva network coverage or possible interference. Still it would be interesting to better understand the physics behind things like a powerline adaptors and HomePlugs and how they can effect the Aquiva network coverage…..

 

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I’m afraid it’s not possible for smart meters to use the internet to submit readings. As part of the specs, it all has to go through dedicated and purpose-built networks. There’s more details about how it all works over at SmartMe. We use this resource on the forums a lot, as it helps us out a ton!

As you mentioned Arqiva, that confirms you’re in the Northern Territory. Unfortunately, the EDMI comms hubs used up there don’t support external aerials, so the meter might need to be repositioned in order to get a connection.

This should be free of charge though if it’s the only way to get the smart features to work.

As for an IHD, the Support Team can order one for you, but if your smart meters aren’t working, it’s not possible to pair up an IHD either.

 

I’ve quoted the bit of @Blastoise186’s reply I think covers everything. Please be advised that you would need to pay the charge for a meter relocation, which currently costs £125. Please see a full costing topic here.  

 

 

 

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I’ve unfortunately been unable to locate any solid references or research for this stuff. It seems that either no-one has really looked into it all from an official or formal capacity, or such research is buried so deep that I can’t find it!

Commissioning a smart meter is basically the process of getting the smart features set up and getting it connected to the network. It is also possible for the meter to work as a traditional meter if this fails, but it wouldn’t do anything beyond simply tallying up your usage.

Mobile phones use a very different frequency to any kind of Long Range Radio that Arqiva has deployed, so they’re probably not affected on the basis the frequencies aren’t even close. If you were in the Southern Territory, this would probably also not be a problem either.

The exact details about how HomePlugs work is complicated and tricky to explain. But the basic idea is that it can turn all the electrical wiring in your house into a giant Ethernet based wired network, without having to run Ethernet cables or network switches all over the house. Compatibility within HomePlugs themselves and other devices has always been kinda weird. Radio devices in particular seem to struggle the most. And even if nothing is going through them right now, the network is still live at all times, unless you unplug all the HomePlugs. I’ve got a friend who has an amuteur radio license, so I might ask him about whether he knows anything.

I also managed to find an old article from The Telegraph that was written in 2011. This seems to add more weight to my theory. This is also backed up by a second article in 2015, again from The Telegraph. While I also admit that Wikipedia isn’t always the most reliable source, the article on HomePlug appears to be pretty accurate. Unfortunately, the original website for the HomePlug Alliance appears to be long gone. This also makes me wonder whether there’ll ever be any further development on this technology, or whether it’s now a dead and abandoned project. Unless there’s evidence to the contrary, I feel that it’s probably best to consider the HomePlug specifications as discontinued. So if there really are interference problems, it’s unlikely they’d get fixed now.

It’s also made more tricky because the HomePlug specifications (such as HomePlug AV) were developed many years before smart meters were even being considered as an idea, so it wouldn’t have been possible to research compatibility between them at the time. Due to the way that these specs work, changing things now would only be possible if an entirely new version of the specification was developed. And I somehow doubt it would be backwards compatible either…

If I was to make a rough guess, the interference from those HomePlugs is probably due to all the Radio Frequency/Electromagnetic Interference from all the noise they make, combined with the fact the signals are probably reaching the smart meter itself and messing up the comms hub. Unlike Ethernet, there’s no way to “force” a network created using HomePlugs to only go directly between the relevant devices - they will blindly spray everything all over the place and cannot be focused or controlled.

This is a good thing of course, if you want to be able to move the HomePlugs around freely and be able to get them connected no matter which power socket you plug them into, but it is also a curse in that all power sockets in the house (and possibly your neighbours too!) are turned into network ports even if you don’t want that. On the other hand, Power over Ethernet only delivers power directly through the network cables to serve the devices that support/require PoE, which helps to prevent this type of interference.

I agree that it’s a bit of a dodgy product on the basis that there’s a lot of flaws in the tech, but unfortunately it’s a bit too late to outright ban them now. In fairness however, their popularity has faded over the years due to reliability and security issues. The last time I saw any setup using HomePlugs (other than my failed attempt) was probably six years ago.

I also noticed that there’s actually a newer standard which is planning to replace and supercede existing HomePlug specification called G.hn . I don’t know much about it, but it also seems like it might suffer the same drawbacks.

However, given the limited power levels of these devices, I wouldn’t be too surprised if any interference was contained to only a small area such a single building. As you get further away from the nearest HomePlug, the signals from it get weaker and less likely to cause issues.

The only way to get definitive proof of my theory, would be for someone to recreate the environment in question and run a bunch of tests while monitoring things with a spectrum analyser (which are really, really expensive!). Other than that, my only real advice would be to try shutting off the HomePlugs and see if that allows the smart meter to start working.

Even if you were to simply move the smart meter elsewhere, I’d be concerned that this wouldn’t fix the issues by itself - especially since the signals from the HomePlugs would likely still reach the smart meter regardless. If you’re happy to try turning them off and then ask OVO to try to commission your smart meter again, at least it won’t cost you anything. If this fix works, then you don’t have to worry about paying for a meter relocation, but if it still fails, then at least we can rule out one possible culprit without incurring costs.

Thanks Blastoise186, I also continued looking. There is reference to a limited experiment by the BBC which apparently clearly demonstrated DAB interference (not a problem for us) and a lot of complaints by shortwave radio hams. But both frequencies are not near the 400MHz used by Arqiva. I’ll disconnect the things anyway for now and see if the meter comes to life. Supposedly the Ovo system will check for three months after installation to see if a signal comes through.

Meanwhile Tim_Ovo confirms now that Ovo DO charge for relocating a Smart Meter, but according to our emails with Ovo we would also need to pay for an electrician to connect the newly positioned meter to the fusebox - so 125 pounds is only the start. And it may STILL not work. So no, not doing that.

So we see that eventually the smart meter rollout will be completed and then Ovo and Arqiva will be forced to admit that they still haven’t delivered a Smart network since a third of the meters are not working. At that point I expect the problem will be properly addressed, although we may not be living here then :-).

Funny, if we, the customer, were actually paying for the meters up front, we would be sending them back as not fit for purpose and the problem would have been fixed. I wonder why Ovo isn’t able to do this, it’s such a waste that companies are blindly rolling out devices that are no good, wasting our money. I will have to investigate if any electricity companies are able to install a better unit. 

I’ll leave this thread for now, but promise to update it if anything concrete happens. Thanks for your help everybody. Best Wishes. 

So the community manager thinks the best answer is for us to spend hundreds of pounds moving the meter with no guarantee that it will fix the problem. 

If you are an Ovo employee (it’s not clear to me) you could have asked me where I lived and then investigated to see if any neighbouring properties had working smart meters. At least then you would have been on firmer ground recommending the meter move.

I’m not saying that moving the meter won’t fix the problem, however many, many people have got smart meters with no reception. Rather than forcing (or trying to force) all of them to move their meters a BETTER solution would be to provide a more flexible meter with aerials or some other means of  improving the meters communications.

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@bingbongovo2021wrote:

both frequencies are not near the 400MHz used by Arqiva

1: Arqiva don’t use 400MHz for SMETS2 Smart Meters. Rather they use 870-876MHz in the Northern Territory, which they acquired when the ITV analogue broadcasts were switched off.

400MHz was trialed in 2010, but that precedes the development of the UK Demand Side Response strategy, which has the Smart meter network as it’s foundation stone.

 

2: The reference to interference from ethernet Homeplugs isn’t well supported. There are possibilities of short-term clashes between WiFi and ZigBee at 2.4GHz, but that’s the Home Area Network, and your issue is with the Wide Area Network.

 

3: Before an Installation Engineer arrives on site, it is a requirement that your location is checked against the national database/map for frequency coverage.

As the licence-holder for the Northern Territory, Arqiva are contracted to the Data Communications Company to provide WAN coverage, and to ensure that the integrity of this service is properly represented in the national database.

If an Energy Supplier finds that the signal strength is inadequate, then their first recourse is to raise the issue with Arqiva.

Smart Meters Programme, Schedule 2.1; March 2014; DCC requirements

 

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I’ve had a chat this week with a very good friend of mine, who also happens to hold an amuteur radio license. His advice and thoughts proved interesting.

In his opinion, the use of HomePlugs in this sort of scenario is a possible catalyst that can potentially worsen the issue, but the fact the smart meter is in the basement is the more likely root cause. Both of them combined are probably destroying any chances of getting Long-Range Radio through. You can’t easily blast such signals through so much solid stone/brick after all! If the meter is moved elsewhere, the chances of the signal being blocked should be reduced.

However, he also agrees that Radio Frequency Interference and/or Electromagnetic Interference caused by HomePlugs may be contributors to signal issues. Even though most devices are supposed to be capable of tolerating such interference and dealing with it properly, certain things are more capable than others. And certain devices cause far more than their own fair share of this stuff!

Just been on the phone to Ovo again. 2nd level complaints team.

All at Ovo that we have spoken to now say that asking us to move our meter at our cost is unacceptable, so hopefully we won’t hear that again. We have disconnected the homeplug.

It doesn’t seem they have taken this up with Arqiva, which doesn’t seem right to me, I thought that when comms problems occurred then that was the normal process. After all, all Ovo can do on their own is try putting in another meter with exactly the same spec, which will obviously not achieve anything (what is that definition of insanity again?).

There doesn’t seem to be a set process of what happens when the meter doesn’t talk to Arqiva, which to me is wrong, there should be a defined fault recovery process which always ends up with a satisfactory outcome. Not up to ISO9001 standards, not that I can see if that applies to Ovo.

Arqiva claim that their signal has better penetration than mobile, so since a mobile phone works next to the meter I presume either their claim is wrong, or their aerial is too far away.

Anyway, will keep updating this if any progress occurs.

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Welcome back @bingbongovo2021 .

As far as I’m seeing things, I’d also be inclined to agree that you shouldn’t be expected to pay for the meter to be moved in this case. If you wanted it to be moved because you wanted to repurpose the basement, then charging for the work makes sense, but not for a fault.

It is still preferable to try and resolve the issue without moving the meter if possible, since it’s less disruptive and much less complicated this way. It’s unfortunate that smart meters using Arqiva can’t use signal boosters either, since that would have probably helped a bit. My recommendation at this point would be to see if anyone can come out and do a site survey and meter health check  in-person. It’s the easiest way to check whether Arqiva’s signal is even reaching the meter at all. If it is, then it could be a dud meter, if not then we at can at least rule that out.

Since I’m pretty certain that the nearby lifeboat station you mentioned gets an excellent signal, it’s unlikely that you’re massively out of range of any Arqiva transmitters - they’ve got them set up all over the UK after all. In some ways, this feels like one of those cases where Beamforming, Beam Steering and Beam Switching techniques might help, but it’s not something you can set up yourself. Assuming Arqiva can even support this stuff, it’d have to be done on their end.

My own UniFi network kit has support for all three of these techniques. The basic idea means that my network kit is capable of using them to “follow” my devices around the environment and direct most of the signal where it’s needed based on where it thinks my devices are, rather than just blindly spraying Wi-Fi all over the place. It generally results in better performance without having to physically move access points around or turn them to face my devices. Due to the high antenna gain, all of my access points are powerful enough to hear my devices regardless of where I am in the building, so these techniques aren’t required.

These features are starting to become more common on Wi-Fi routers and access points these days, but you’re more likely to find them on one that you buy yourself, rather than the cheaply made freebies that ISPs dish out.

If Arqiva is able to do this - and this is a very big if - then there's still a chance that your problem could be solved without messing with the hardware or having it moved. But this probably needs further investigation. Unfortunately, it’s also not quite as simple to do on a giant transmitting station as it is for a bunch of managed Wi-Fi access points. Possible in theory and possible in reality are two different beasts, so it’s unknown whether Arqiva could - or would - do anything to reconfigure their entire system for a single user.

If you haven’t yet done so, I strongly recommend letting the Support Team know about this thread and telling them that I’ve been helping out with advice on this one. The best I can think of is that there’s clearly a puzzle that needs solving here, but it’s unclear as to exactly what the root cause is. And until that’s identified, it’s not going to be easy to solve the rest.

While ISO9001:2015 might be applicable to this sort of thing, not every company in the UK has this accreditation and it only applies to those that do (and they’d also make it clear if that’s the case). I’m not sure if OVO has ISO9001:2015 so I can’t verify the status. @Tim_OVO might be able to query that however.

 

It’s not a dud meter, Ovo have already sent an engineer who checked everything and tried a different meter which performed exactly the same.

I’ve had further contact from Ovo complaints and apparently the strength of the Arqiva signal in our area is 11, on a scale of 7 to 17 (!!!), so on the weak side. 

If a meter doesn’t communicate then Ovo notify Arqiva, and apparently this was done last July and again this February. However Ovo say that there is no obligation for Arqiva to reply, or give a target date for a fix, so all Ovo can do is wait 6 months and then notify them again. Also Ovo still can’t tell me if there are any other working smart meters in my street, in fact it’s not clear if they can tell this themselves. 

This link https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Rolling-out-smart-meters-Transcript.pdf to an old report from the national audit office estimates the cost to every householder of £391 to pay for the smart meter network. So not free then. I’d say poor value for money, for me anyway. Interestingly this report also says the design of the smart meter programme was done by the government department responsible. When will people learn that if you cut a process in half, and give half each to two companies, they will devote far more effort to blaming each other for any problems than they will to actually fixing them. 

So I’m still pursuing this on the basis that eventually it will either be magically fixed, or the problem transferred to the ombudsman, who maybe has the power to extract some information from Arqiva.

Meanwhile a large majority of the people I talk to don’t have and don’t want a smart meter, EDF were supposed to come round last Friday and install one for a neighbour, but then called on the day and cancelled, which was disappointing as I was keen to learn how they got on.

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Hi @bingbongovo2021 ,

That’s definitely not as much progress as I’d have been hoping for either, that I can definitely admit.

A signal strength that low is strange, but I’d have thought it’d still be usable. But without knowing the parameters for each level, it's tricky to say for sure. I begin to wonder what the signal strength is outside and around your house. If that could be checked, it might offer more clues as to what’s going on. I can’t say why EDF cancelled that other appointment, but it’s possible that the cancellation could have been for reasons other than signal issues (such as emergency call outs, engineer off sick, inventory issues etc).

However, I do need to make one or two minor corrections there to clarify a couple of things. I can’t comment on surveys that ask about whether people want smart meters or not, since every single one seems to get different results and are inconclusive/inconsistent.

However, the process that involved designing and building out the infrastructure is more complicated than it seems at first glance, which is why the info at SmartMe proves so helpful and that website is intended to maintain a Neutral Point of View where possible - so much so that it actually does discuss reasons why people do and don’t want smart meters and includes links to websites .that both argue for and against smart meters (and a few other assorted links to websites that are neutral or just provide more context).

However, it’s worth noting that the UK was actually split up into three Regions when it went out to tender, rather than two. It just happened to work out that Arqiva won the tender for the Northern Region, while Telefonica snapped up both the Central and Southern Regions. Strictly speaking, given that it’s still three regions overall, a future tender could go out which later results in three different contracts been awarded to three different vendors (one for each region). It’s purely coincidental that only two vendors won this round.

You probably can’t contact Arqiva directly I’m afraid, they only directly talk to their existing and potential clients on a Business 2 Business basis, they don’t have a Business 2 Consumer or Business 2 Customer service.

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Thanks for this update, @bingbongovo2021 - I can totally understand your reasoning for leaving this meter as a ‘dumb’ meter, submitting your readings manually, and waiting for what seems like an inevitable improvement in signal, by Arqiva, in your region. 

 

As you mentioned it would’ve been handy to hear a comparison with a neighbour! 

 

A signal strength that low is strange, but I’d have thought it’d still be usable. But without knowing the parameters for each level, it's tricky to say for sure.

 

Agree, it’s not clear what an ‘11’ signal strength can do, and if location is a contributing factor. 

 

Still unless you have smart home products connected to your home already, or planning on getting them soon, or an electric vehicle, it might just be in your interest to wait. These products, and tariffs, that rely on the presence of a smart meter, are coming. But I think we’re still in the early adopter phase, meaning the main benefits of a smart meter currently are not having to submit meter readings, and have great online usage features. If you can put up without that, I’d wait for the infrastructure upgrades, 

 

Still very understandable that you’d feel hard done by this, especially at the prospect of paying for the meter being moved. Not a great experience in the slightest. I hope this gets resolved quickly. 

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