Radiofrequency(RF) Communication

Radiofrequency(RF) Communication

India’s energy demand continues to rise. Meeting that demand cost-effectively means investing in new technology that increases efficiency without compromising service levels.

Increasingly, utilities are deploying intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) and other smart apparatus in substations and along with distribution feeders and equipping field workers with laptops, tablets, and handheld computers. These technologies are often labeled smart grids. They enable practical applications such as Automatic meter reading(AMR), substation automation, distribution automation, outage management, automatic load shedding, and the ability to manage alternative energy sources.

Two-way smart grid communication links the people and devices in the field with software at substations and the utility’s operations center, enabling applications that deliver vast improvements in efficiency, security, reliability, and resiliency. Extending communication from the substation control house to the substation yard and distribution feeders are best accomplished using wireless field area communication networks.

Radiofrequency(RF) communication

As per wiki, Radiofrequency(RF) refers to alternating(AC)electric current or radio waves, oscillating in the frequency range used in radio. RF itself has become synonymous with wireless and high-frequency signals, describing anything from AM radio between 535 kHz and 1605 kHz to computer local area networks (LANs) at 2.4 GHz. However, RF has traditionally defined frequencies from a few kHz to roughly 1 GHz. If one considers microwave frequencies as RF, this range extends to 300 GHz.

An AMR must reliably send data back to the server, and information technology (IT) systems should pull these data out and process them. Incorporating RF in smart meters is a very efficient outcome in terms of productivity and reliability. RF mesh technology uses radio waves to communicate among groups of meters that send the data to a data concentrator unit (DCU) for further transmission to the server. Depending upon the frequency and the type of mesh network, there are several different RF mesh technologies.

Name of Technology Operated Frequency
Zigbee 2.4GHz, 900MHz
6LoWPAN Sub-1 GHz
LoRaWAN 902.3MHz-914.3MHz
DASH7 315MHz, 915MHz
Z-Wave 908.42MHz
MyriaNed 2.4GHz, 868 MHz


Radiofrequency(RF) communication in Automatic meter reading(AMR):

RF mesh technology uses lower bandwidth radio frequencies which are less crowded and more reliable. Narrowband applications use considerably less power and are less spectrum intensive than those using higher frequencies. So Narrowband networks offer more capacity for connected devices.

AMR uses radio frequency (RF) to collect consumption data from customers’ utility meters using radio frequency technologies. This system provides electric utilities the opportunity to increase operational efficiency, improve customer services, reduce data-collection costs, and quickly gather critical information that gives insight to company decision-makers. The existing meters are upgraded by adding an RF module to provide remote communication capabilities. At the same time, the receiver module unit interfaced directly to a Head End System(HES) to communicate all necessary details.

When we look at the RF technology, it has some desirable features such as 100kbps of Uplink and Downlink speed. In-built broadcast and multicast commands for load control and tariff management. Low power consumption than GPRS hence reducing the BOM (bill of material) cost of devices.

You install a connected meter or retrofit an existing one, and the energy meter is automatically commissioned and added to the interconnected, Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI). This means that initial deployment is relatively inexpensive, and projects can quickly be done in phases. There are no inherent limitations on the number of meters that can be added to the system or where the physical meter need to be related.

On the other hand, RF mesh networks often require careful network planning, especially concerning the density of nodes and the placement of gateways.

There is one challenge in RF due to reduced range when a line of sight of the device gets obstructed by some concrete structure. This issue can be tackled by using repeaters and high gain antennas considering the geological positioning of instruments.

Utilities come in all shapes and sizes, but they all strive for essentially the same result; they seek to deliver energy to their customers efficiently and safely while safeguarding the utility’s revenue stream, minimizing expenses, and maintaining customer satisfaction.