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Criminals Could Target BT’s UK Superfast Fibre Optic Broadband Batteries

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 (8:36 am) - Score 2,450
fttc-uk-bt-superfast-broadband-street-cabinet

BT has denied that the backup batteries used by its new generation of fibre optic (FTTC, FTTP) connected superfast broadband street cabinets could soon become a target for thieves. The result could be a serious loss of connectivity, albeit only if the theft occurred during a power outage.


The claim was made by BT’s outspoken former Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Dr Peter Cochrane, as part of his submission to the Lords Select Committee Inquiry into the UK governments superfast broadband strategy (original news). “Once the local bandits have recognised that there is a car battery in the bottom, you can bet your bottom dollar that a crowbar will be out and the battery will keep disappearing,” said Cochrane.

BTs Spokesman countered (PC Pro):

Our fibre cabinets do contain a small 12-volt battery which is used to provide a back-up power supply in the event of a network power outage.

It is not a ‘car battery’ but is specifically designed to fit into our cabinets, and is not something that could be readily adapted to power anything else.

All of our cabinets are highly secure and fully alarmed so that if there were any attempted unauthorised entry – we would know immediately. If the battery pack were to be removed the power supply to the cabinet would not be affected.”

Existing copper line based broadband (e.g. ‘up to’ 20-24Mbps ADSL2+) and phone services do not require a battery backup because they independently draw power from the local telephone exchange. Copper is a good conductor of electricity, while fibre optic lines can only carry the optical transmission signal and thus rely upon an external backup.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar New_Londoner

    Sounds like Dr Cochrane was misinformed given the quote from the “BT spokesman”. Perhaps the title should be in quotation marks?

  2. Guess which providers cabinets you see with doors missing most of the time…Virgin Media.

    There is an irony to this as news, since keep talking about it, and the rumour will pass into the lore that there is a nice 85Ah car battery in it.

    Also a lot of the Cochrane coverage has selectively quoted too.

  3. Given the significant involvement of organised crime in telecoms related thefts then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that they already know about this. In any case they’re probably more interested in the valuable copper underground than a battery, at least for now.

    Meanwhile Cochrane, for good or ill, did say an awful lot of highly critical stuff without even needing to be particularly selective about it.

  4. Avatar Phil

    Virgin Media is a disgrace when their cabinets open and don’t even care to lock it or sorted it out. Our area had been loss of broadband for 7 weeks last year because of this cabient was set on fire !

  5. Avatar Commoncents

    Don’t remember Dr Cochrane being quite so outspoken on all things BT when he was their man responsible for technology. ‘Opinion without responsibility’.

  6. We all know that UK crime would be at epidemic proportions if items are not bolted down or otherwise protected. No more so then on the streets.

    At least BT are protecting their equipment from the start. Not waiting for large scale theft, something in days long forgotten they did not need to do.

    Hopefully RABIT can stop the large number of gangs stealing copper cable as well.

  7. Avatar Ethel Prunehat

    Denying that the battery could be adapted to anything else [which I find hard to believe anyway – did they really commision their own design of battery when there are so many different designs available COTS?] is disingenuous when surely it’s what the battery is made of [lead] that is of interest to those who would steal it.

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