Verizon equips PenLight utility meters with cell connections for IoT

Mount Rainier
PenLight serves the communities of Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula in Washington state. (Pixabay)

Verizon is teaming with Peninsula Light Company (PenLight) in the state of Washington to update the utility’s power distribution system with Verizon’s Grid Wide Utility Services Intelligent Energy platform.

PenLight is a member-owned electric cooperative serving the communities of Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula in Washington. Verizon and PenLight plan to replace end-of-life meters in homes and businesses of more than 33,000 PenLight members with electric meters that are equipped with Verizon cellular connectivity.

According to Jay Olearain, Verizon’s director of Product and New Business Innovation, Verizon is supplying PenLight with an end-to-end solution.

Grid Wide is a managed, cloud-based IoT platform-as-a-service solution designed to help utilities modernize their systems. Utilities can remotely configure, monitor and manage end points within their service areas, thereby improving customer service and creating operational efficiencies.

PenLight isn’t new to Verizon; they’ve worked together previously. But given Verizon’s similarities to the utility industry, it makes sense it would want to court this vertical as part of its IoT strategy. Verizon isn’t revealing how many customers use Grid Wide, but it’s actively working to add more utilities.

According to PenLight CEO Jafar Taghavi, Grid Wide allows his operations team to see issues earlier and respond faster while also helping keep costs low and service delivery as high as possible. “Perhaps most importantly, Verizon’s solution gives us the ability to remain nimble within the rapidly changing dynamics of the electric utility industry,” he said in a press release.

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pdvWireless, a company led by former Nextel Communications founders, has been lobbying for changes to the 900 MHz band to better serve utilities with private broadband LTE. In 2014, the company acquired Sprint’s 900 MHz spectrum, and it argues that 900 MHz is ideal spectrum to solve the issues that utilities are facing.  

Verizon’s Grid Wide uses 700 MHz Band 13. Over the past year, it’s evolved from LTE Category 4 to LTE Category M1 for commercial deployment with electric meters, and it’s developing Cat M1 for the water and gas industries.

When you think about Verizon as a technology company, “we operate very much like a utility,” Olearain said. Part of the company is regulated and part of it is not; it also manages high-valued assets that are distributed around the world.

Considering how electric utilities work, “we face a lot of the same challenges,” he said, and with Verizon’s history of providing reliable and secure network technology, “we think we have a good opportunity to participate beyond just communications. We’ve done that. This is a full end-to-end solution,” from the software in the device to the network and hosted computing environments.  

RELATED: Verizon retools ThingSpace IoT platform to focus on connectivity

Grid Wide is part of Verizon’s ThingSpace, which was initially launched in 2015 as a one-stop shop for enterprises but recently was retooled to focus on the operator’s core strength of providing connectivity.