External antenna in mesh network

External mesh smart meter antenna

Example of External Antenna in Mesh Network

This smart meter has an external antenna inside the black cone. Installing the external antenna requires a hole to be created in the customer’s meter box to pass a cable from the smart meter to the antenna. This results in damage to private property.

This example is from one of the mesh smart meter networks. In Victoria, these are deployed by Jemena, United Energy, CitiPower and Powercor. External antennas have also been mounted in other positions, such as beneath the meter box.

External antennas are installed ‘to boost or reconfigure the radio signal between the smart meter and the power distributor’s telecommunications network’. They are typically installed where difficult terrain (hills and tall trees) have made communications challenging using an internal smart meter antenna. External antennas may also be installed in areas where all the meter boxes have been constructed of metal, as metal enclosures cause transmissions to be attenuated. In such an instance, the power distributor may endeavour to put an external antenna on, say, every tenth meter box.

Beware: installing an external antenna may substantially increase network traffic to and from the smart meter.

The best way to check this is with a radiofrequency meter. Transmissions increase as the external antenna presents an ‘easier’ path between this meter and other smart meters in the mesh network. All factors being equal, meters which have the best potential for communications will handle the most traffic. Deployment of additional external antennas in a Powercor rural mesh network with marginal mobile phone communications resulted in the complete loss of mobile phone communications for a number of residents.

Note, as per court documentation which PG&E was required to file, in a mesh network the median number of microwave transmissions per day is 9,600 with the average number of transmissions being close to 14,000: http://emfsafetynetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/PGERFDataOpt-outalternatives_11-1-11-3pm.pdf. A worst case scenario results in 190,000 transmissions per day. PG&E use the same mesh networking technology, supplied by Silver Spring Networks, as Jemena, United Energy, CitiPower and Powercor.

Customers who are in a mesh network and have an external antenna may request that their power distributor remove it and rectify the damage caused to their meter box. If your power distributor is uncooperative, and you live in Victoria, contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV) to investigate and resolve disputes on Freecall 1800 500 509.

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