Will Russia make NB-IoT smart meters illegal?

Will Russia make NB-IoT smart meters illegal?

In a rather unusual development, certain areas of IoT provision may be rendered illegal after a proposal by Russia’s ministry of digital development, communications and mass media at the end of last year.

The NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things) standard was apparently not included in the list of those standards permissible for use in electricity metering systems and devices – as operators like MTS, MegaFon, VimpelCom and Tele2 apparently pointed out in a letter to the deputy head of the ministry of digital development, Oleg Ivanov, in late January.

All these operators provide services based on NB-IoT. That’s not too surprising: NB-IoT is a widely used low power wide area network (LPWAN) radio technology standard developed by 3GPP to enable a wide range of cellular devices and services.

Russian news resource Kommersant has suggested that, as a consequence of NB-IoT not being on the ministry of digital development’s list, more than one million smart electricity meters used in housing and communal services may be outlawed.

The list did recognize the domestic NB-Fi standard. However, operators have claimed that it is less secure than foreign versions because it operates in unlicensed frequencies. 

Both the NB-Fi standard and NB-IoT have been approved by Russia's Federal Technical Regulation and Metrology Agency (Rosstandart). Another popular low-power wide-area network standard, LoRaWAN, is awaiting approval but also did not make it onto the ministry of digital development’s list.

The main worry for the operators is that the list may be mandatory; if so, replacing the meters could lead to an increase in electricity prices. However,  the ministry has suggested that the list will be advisory in nature.

The Russian metering market is likely to grow. On 1 July 2020 a law came into force, according to which suppliers of electricity are required to install metering devices at their own expense in apartment buildings, and grid companies – in both the commercial sector and in private houses.