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.
“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.