Electric utilities around the world are increasing the pace of their smart meter deployments in an effort to increase the level of automation and control for their metering operations. According to a new tracking report from Pike Research, global smart meter shipment volumes continued to be strong in the first quarter of 2011 (1Q11), with 17.4 million units shipped. A nearly equal number of associated advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) communications nodes were shipped during the same period, as well. Fully 70% of these shipments were in China in support of a massive rollout by State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC). Excluding China, global smart meter shipments totaled nearly 5.3 million units, with more than two-thirds of these occurring in North America.

“The smart meter deployment phase is in full swing,” says research director Bob Gohn. “The U.S. ARRA stimulus impact is now in evidence, Europe is starting its predicted growth phase, and China continues to surprise with the scale and speed of its rollouts. In North America, attention is shifting to the many smaller municipal and cooperative utilities, though there remain some larger utilities still to articulate significant smart meter plans.”

Pike Research’s analysis of smart meter unit shipments also reveals the following:

  • Powerline communications (PLC) was the primary networking technology utilized in meters shipped during 1Q11, representing 76% of the total. This trend was driven by unit shipments in China and Europe. Excluding China, however, RF Mesh technology was on top with a 59% share of the market.
  • Advanced smart meters – those with a home area networking (HAN) interface and remote disconnect/reconnect capabilities – represented 62% of global shipments outside China, with representation in each world region.
  • China was the leading market for smart meter shipments, constituting 70% of total unit volumes during 1Q11. The shares for other regions were as follows: North America (21%), Europe (6%), Asia Pacific excluding China (2%), and Latin America (1%).

Pike Research’s Smart Grid Deployment Tracker, updated quarterly, provides detailed analysis of worldwide utility smart grid and smart meter programs including tracking of customer endpoints, metering vendors, communications vendors, and systems integrators. The newly expanded tracker now includes tabulation of global smart meter and AMI communications node shipments, segmented by technology, world region, and meter type.