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Thoughts On Delicensing Spectrum For Utilities

In what is going to be a significant boost for machine to machine communciations, the Department of Telecom is considering delicensing the 433 MHz frequency band for transmission of information related to utility services, reports The Hindu Businessline. For example, the reading of your water and electricity meter could be transmitted in real-time to the service providers. Our take on delicensing of spectrum for utlities:

– This can already be done using existing mobile or BWA spectrum, so where is the need to delicense? We’ve seen utilities like Nano Ganesh that have been used to switch pumps off and on. The difference is perhaps that if spectrum is delicensed, then it would be at no cost to the utility service providers, who would have to spend on upgrading their systems and consumer premises equipment to allow the machine to machine communication. Delicensed spectrum would mean that once infrastructure cost has been incurred, there would be no cost of transmission of data.

– The delicensed spectrum should not only be available to public and privitized utility companies, but for other private services as well. For example, a key that allows you to lock and unlock your house digitally from a few miles away, or allow you to turn the air conditioning when you’re a few kilometers away.

– The Hindu Businessline story presents a case for public utility service providers also collecting data on consumers usage patterns, so that they can determine time for peak demand, and also have time-specific pricing for services. But isn’t this possible already – electricity boards should probably already know what time usage peaks because of the aggregate load on the grids. Maybe I’m over-reacting, but from a safety perspective, information on electricity and water consumption of an individual household should not be accessible, and the information should be anonymised. As we’d quoted in case of Google’s PowerMeter terms when they tied up with Reliance Power (what ever happened to this initiative?):

Google PowerMeter is an opt-in service and users must sign up to participate. No personally identifying information will be shared between Google and the user’s utility. All energy data received by Google PowerMeter will be stored securely, and users will be able to delete their energy data or ask their utility to stop sending data to Google PowerMeter at any time.

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– Adequate security measures need to be put into place so ensure that communication across this delicesed spectrum is encrypted, and not easily susceptible to hacking.

How else do you think delicensed spectrum can be utilized?

Update: Also read about Tanla Mobile’s patent on automated meter reading system which uses each meter to create a wireless mesh network for transmission of data.

Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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