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Communication technology plays an increasingly important role in the growing automated metering infrastructure (AMI) market. This paper presents a thorough analysis and comparison of four application layer protocols in the smart metering context. The inspected protocols are DLMS/COSEM, the Smart Message Language (SML), and the MMS and SOAP mappings of IEC 61850. The focus of this paper is on their use over TCP/IP. The protocols are first compared with respect to qualitative criteria such as the ability to transmit clock synchronization information. Afterwards the message size of meter reading requests and responses and the different binary encodings of the protocols are compared.