Advanced Metering Data Systems ( completed the delivery of 50,000 AMDS Connect-enabled Sensus iCon electricity meters for Alabama Power Co. (APC; Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.) under a contract to provide advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) monitoring services in APC's service territory.

Derl Rhoades, principal in APC's Power Delivery Metering Department, explained, “We've had plenty of prior experience with meter installations, and we figured we knew pretty much what to expect in a deployment of this magnitude; that is, a few bad units, some problem installation sites and especially getting the communications system to work properly, the latter generally being our biggest and most difficult challenge. However, we're pleasantly surprised by what we have observed this time around.”

The APC deployment includes approximately 45,000 two-way residential meters, allowing top-of-the-hour synchronized hourly reads, on-demand reads, real-time outage management and voltage monitoring for each meter. It also includes 5000 C&I meters with the AMDS system providing demand register reads/resets and two-way C12.19 table tunneling capability for those meters.

“To be fair, this project is different from most other metering roll-outs in some very important ways,” said Rhoades. “First of all — and perhaps most importantly — the AMDS network topology required only three towers to cover hundreds of square miles of our service territory. This extended coverage translates into a massive reduction in project complexity and deployment logistics.”

“Second, all of the meters are currently set for hourly reads and are delivering 99.5% read interval success. That in itself is a major accomplishment, but what makes it even more extraordinary is that we are getting that kind of read reliability with no repeaters or extra antennas needed anywhere in the entire system. Even some meters we have inside of metal buildings and below ground level are communicating reliably, a technique AMDS calls ‘Buddy Mode,’” Rhoades continued.

Buddy Mode is a special software feature unique to the patented AMDS Connect design that allows meters with marginal communications to get a signal boost from a nearby meter antenna without the need for any additional hardware.

The three towers used for the APC deployment were originally installed to cover an initial 50 sq mile (129 sq km) trial, an area encompassing four zip codes in the metro-Birmingham area. However, the patented AMDS Connect network quickly proved to have a range of as much as 20 miles (32 km) or more from a tower, allowing the towers to cover about 250 sq miles (647 sq km) and allowing future deployments to be made without the need to expand the existing coverage network infrastructure.