Huawei, China’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, and smart-meter maker Landis+Gyr have signed an agreement to collaborate on technology ahead of the UK’s planned smart meter roll out.
The two companies will work on a "universal communications hub" that energy providers and telecommnications providers can use to collect data from smart meters in customers’ homes.
The technology is being developed for the global smart meter market, but the initial focus will be the UK’s planned roll-out in 2019. It hopes to sell these to the consortia of suppliers that will be able to bid for national smart meter contracts from 2014.
According to Tim Watkins, Huwaei’s VP for Western Europe, the communications hub will most likely use the Zigbee wireless mesh network standard. "Zigbee seems to be the front runner and that’s where we shall be going," he said.
Watkins said that privacy will be "an integral part of the design" of the communications hub, but that it remains to be seen what privacy standards the government will demand from suppliers.
Commenting on the news that Huawei has been banned from pitching for the Australian government’s national broadband infrastructure project over cyber security concerns, Watkins said: "I’m struggling to understand why it happened, because in the UK and virtually every country outside America, we’ve managed to overcome any concerns about security.
"Clearly, we have to respect their decision, but given that we’ve supplied something like 45 of the top 50 carriers around the world, and 8 of the last 9 next-generation broadband networks, we think its slightly unbalanced to take that view."
Watkins said the while ‘Tier 1’ mobile communications providers in the US such as Verizon and Sprint are banned from buying Huawei equipment, he does not expect similar treatment for its smart meter infrastructure. "I don’t think its going to be an issue," he said.
Landis+Gyr is the leader of the smart meter industry by market share. Last year, it was acquired by Japanese electronics giant Toshiba.
Huawei has been prevented from acquiring US companies in the past by government committees that claim the company has links to the People’s Liberation Army of China. The company has challenged its accusors to prove any security transgressions.
The Chinese company has made a number of high profile hires in the UK, including former government CIO John Suffolk as the head of its security practice, and in January acquired a photonics research laboratory based at Adastral Park, near Ipswich.