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UPD Openreach Criticise UK Power Networks for Costly FTTC Cabinet Installs

Posted Friday, November 2nd, 2012 (1:11 pm) by Mark Jackson (Score 2,430)
bt superfast broadband cabinet uk installation

The boss of BTOpenreach has described UK Power Networks, which maintains the electricity network for London, the East and South East of England, as a “monopoly” because of the huge disparity of costs for supplying power to BT’s superfast broadband (FTTC) street cabinets.

Openreach is responsible for managing access to and maintenance of BT’s national UK telecoms network. One of its jobs involves replacing the operators old street cabinets with new ones that can support the latest generation of superfast Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology.

But over the past few years we’ve heard about a growing number of cases where cabinets that should be economically viable have no longer been able to proceed due to unexpected costs, which can be caused by all sorts of problems. One of those stems from the issue of high power supply costs.

Liv Garfield, CEO of Openreach, said (PC Pro):

Basically, if there was a monopoly right now in the world of fibre, I’d debate that it was in the UK Power Network space. [They] are the only people who can power cabinets.”

Garfield, whom yesterday denied that BT itself was a monopoly in the superfast broadband market where Virgin Media’s coverage is still technically bigger (at least for a little while longer), warned that the estimated cost of upgrading a cabinets power supply could sometimes jump from around £2,000 to a whopping £25,000 and make the cabinet “non-commercially viable“. Indeed this is one of the issues that affected the Haywards Heath cabinet, which we covered yesterday (here).

Openreach’s boss claimed that a regulated solution might be needed to solve the problem, which she said had affected “tens and tens” of street cabinets. (note: BT is deploying about 30,000 FTTC cabinets). We suspect the problem might need to affect more than “tens” of cabs before regulation is considered but then Garfield’s figure is quite vague.

UPDATE 3rd November 2012

It came a bit late to include in the above article but here’s UKPN’s interesting reply to Openreach.

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7 Responses
  1. Kyle

    BT accusing another company of a monopoly?! Surely not…

    • DTMark

      Pot, kettle 😉

      It’s another of those “you couldn’t make it up” moments.

      How are VM cabinets powered?

      Can’t BT just run a long cable themselves down their own ducts, or does that interfere with the ancient phone lines?

  2. Starman

    Some VM cabinets are powered but not all of them. Generally they are the larger type and also you can sometimes hear fans running within them. As for costs for installation of supply power to the cabinets well it depends on the location and where the nearest suitable LV mains cable is located. Which could involve digging 10s of meters in the footpath and even road crossings etc. The supplies themselves are typically only single phase 35Ec CNE plastic service which is what a typical new house uses. My biggest reason for cost would be possible use of 3rd party contractors…

    • Ignitionnet

      Pretty much every VM cabinet is powered, the ones you’re referring to take a mains feed which they then convert to DC and fire down the coax, that DC current powers subsequent active devices.

      The fibre nodes, telco mux and core fibre repeaters take mains feeds, the nodal cabinets line power the other coax-only cabinets.

      With VM’s current node size getting towards 250 homes passed they are taking at least as many power feeds in their cabled areas as Openreach.

  3. cyclope

    The utility companies all are a rip off when it comes to installing new supplies be it Gas Water or Electricity, and telephone lines all are companies are over inflating the install charges, and all continue to make a profit ater the instal

    Although it may cost Openreach a lot for installation of power to the cabs, it will cost very little in the way of electicity consumed per FTTC cab as they use very little power,internal voltage is 12v and comsuption low

    • surrey

      hi cyclope,

      do you know any specific value of power each FTTC street cabinet consumes (on average)? will appreciate the help, thanks.

  4. It would be good if the power companies publish a norm for 90% of cabs. If £2k-£4k is the norm for 90%, then where £25k arises the 30-40 customers could be offered FTTP, or a 4G service configured to work with an external antenna.

    Keep probing on the costs, it will help Audit Commission, and EU competition commission to identify incrementals, not this £30k-£100k per path and cabinet Openreach have been using.

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