T-Mobile Joins the Smart-Grid Wireless Network Brigade

Cellphone carriers like Verizon and AT&T have already staked claims in the digital smart-grid industry with their wireless networks. Now T-Mobile is playing catch-up by partnering with smart meter maker Echelon and developing its own SIM card for the meters. 100,000 of Echelon’s $100 meters (sans T-Mobile SIM card) have already been shipped to U.S. utility Duke Energy, and over 1.6 million have been shipped worldwide. With new cities adopting smart-grid infrastructures every day, the Echelon partnership could be a major boon to T-Mobile.

T-Mobile’s new smart meter SIM card is only 5 to 6 millimeters, durable, and unlike silicon cell phone SIM cards, made of plastic. The reason for the material change? The smart meter cards are meant to withstand outdoor weather conditions.

In addition to using T-Mobile’s SIM cards, Echelon will also run a smart meter service over T-Mobile’s wireless networks. The partnership is strikingly similar to the one that AT&T made with SmartSynch and Texas utility Texas-New Mexico Power recently. As part of the Texas deal, AT&T’s wireless network will connect SmartSynch smart meters to the utility control station. Echelon and T-Mobile’s agreement will function the same way, but the pair hasn’t yet announced utility partnerships.

Utilities like PG&E that are pursuing massive smart meter roll-outs are likely to stick with their own IP-based networks, but smaller utilities around the country looking to existing cell phone carriers for help setting up smart grid networks. Are you listening, Sprint?

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[Via GigaOm]AS