Last updated: April 16, 2009 - 8:33am
Wireless carriers are setting their sights on so-called smart grids as a big business opportunity that could juice up earnings by utilizing excess capacity on their cellphone networks. The upshot for consumers is they may eventually be able to monitor and control home-energy use through a cellphone that talks to a digital meter and other devices, though that service is still in development. Carriers are making an aggressive push to provide the wireless communications link to millions of "smart meters" being installed by electric and gas companies. Unlike older electric meters that tallied up energy use until a utility employee came to read the meter, smart meters record more information, such as when the power is being consumed and at what price. This can help utilities manage the power, and potentially aid consumers in finding cost savings. To win smart-grid business from utilities, wireless companies are slashing the monthly fee they charge to provide the communications link, providing that service, in some cases, for pennies a month for each meter. As a result, the latest technology is being pushed down to the household level instead of being restricted to commercial or industrial customers who have typically paid about $5 a month for that service.
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