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Code Powers Request to Support Virgin Media’s EV Car Cabinets UPDATE

Monday, May 18th, 2020 (12:23 pm) - Score 4,130

Last year saw Liberty Global and sibling broadband ISP Virgin Media announce a new plan to harness some of their existing cable ducts and street cabinets to help support the UK rollout of 1,200 new EV car charging sockets on residential streets. Today we have a small update on that project.

The exact details of how Virgin Media intend to harness some of their 40,000 powered street cabinets and 170,000km of ducts to support the new EV infrastructure remain unclear. However, we suspected that the arrangement is probably more about sharing space in existing cable ducts (note: the power supply won’t come from existing broadband cabinets as they couldn’t deliver enough), using the data connectivity from existing cables / cabinets to connect with vehicles and borrowing some of their civil engineering expertise.

NOTE: The EV project is called ‘Virgin Media Park & Charge‘.

Back in November 2019 the deployment (here), which had already been trialled at six UK sites (e.g. Southwark – pictured below), was expected to take 18 months to complete, but that was before COVID-19 (Coronavirus) hit and as a result we’ve seen very little in the way of progress updates since then.

All of this is being done as part of a large consortium of 19 organisations. The original trial also received some public funding for the project (‘EV Charging for Public Spaces‘) from the Government’s Innovate UK (part of a plan to help reduce car emissions).

connected_kerb_charger_virgin_media_1

Despite this we’ve today noted that a new company – Liberty Global Europe 3 Limited (recently renamed to Griffin Charge Limited) – has just put in a request for Code Powers from Ofcom, which can help to speed-up the deployment of new networks and cut costs by reducing the number of licenses needed for street works. All of this appears to be related to Liberty’s UK EV plan.

Code Powers Statement

The Applicant plans to deploy an electric vehicle charging network to meet the need for residential on-street vehicle charging. It plans to deploy over 1,200 charging points across the country over the next 18 months.

In connection with these plans, the Applicant seeks Code powers to facilitate the deployment of a resilient, low-latency electronic communications network required to support the charging network. The proposed network may also be used to provide other electronic communications services including wireless services and smart-city internet of things (IoT) applications such as parking management, pollution monitoring and data-offload from vehicles.

The connectivity offered to charging points will leverage fixed connectivity from Virgin Media’s electronic communications network. Where appropriate, the applicant will use Openreach’s Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) service to access BT’s duct infrastructure to minimise the disruption associated with network deployment.

The exact roll-out plan remains unclear, although we know that several local authorities are involved including the West Midlands Combined Authority as well as Councils in Oxfordshire, Liverpool, Southend on Sea, Worcestershire, Wandsworth, Croydon, Northamptonshire, Hammersmith & Fulham and Belfast. We’ve requested an update from Virgin Media and will report back if they respond.

Otherwise the big prize in all this could be an additional revenue stream from existing or new infrastructure, albeit perhaps not a particularly big stream.. yet. Being able to create new business out of existing or future cost models and deployments is obviously something that would interest any telecoms operator, especially when planning new network expansions. Clearly it makes enough sense for Liberty Global to do it.

UPDATE 20th May 2020

Liberty Global has now created a Joint Venture with London-based private equity firm Zouk Capital called “Liberty Charge,” which is intended to support the aforementioned deployment of EV charging points. Zouk also manages the UK government’s Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund (CIIF).

Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Avatar chris

    This is a really cool initiative. Great use of street furniture and will further encourage EV adoption.

  2. Avatar NE555

    Seems unlikely you’d put power cables in the same ducts as telephony cables – even if they are notionally inert glass fibre. But using them for the management network makes sense.

    • Avatar Olly

      Indeed not. However, street cabs do need powering themselves, so there is always power entering them. The cab’s power feed can therefore be spliced off (before entering the cab itself) and ran along the pavement to the charge point. Pretty neat and nifty.

  3. Avatar Neb

    Good to do. Do BT Openreach allow CPs to put power cables down their ducts?

  4. Avatar JmJohnson

    I thought there were depth regulations for each utility. Cables that carry power have to be in ducts lower than what telephony is.
    This prevents someone killing themselves when they accidentally go through a phone cable.

    • Avatar Frank Butcher

      This was my first thought, plus to deliver a decent amperage the cable is going to reasonably thick (looks like rapid chargers are 3 phase plus you’ve got the steel armor on the outside of an SWA cable), so you’ll end up taking a disproportionate amount of duct space.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      Yes the depth regulation is very important so that when you are digging you know what you are likely to find.

      The fast chargers are all 3 phase. Generally limited to about 22kW on AC by the in car AC -> DC convertor – how much weight do you want to lug around and how much cooling is needed. Anything of higher wattage is DC.

      The intention being that AC is used for a reasonably fast charge – my Tesla 100kW will charge from 20% to 80% in 3.5hrs on the 22kW AC charger at work.

      DC is a whole different ball game because the waste heat generated in a rapid charge is enormous. I only ever use the Tesla Super Chargers at motorway services.

  5. Avatar Frank Butcher

    Coincidentally across the road from me right now the pavement has been dug up to provision an electricity supply for a new build, and they’ve excavated part of the grass verge. In the verge excavation I can see the cable TV ducts at the same depth as an adjacent duct that looks like it’s got a 3 phase electricity cable inside so it would be a minimum of 450mm deep.

    So in this area the CATV ducts may well be 450mm below the surface and therefore suitable for 3 phase 230v.

  6. Avatar 5G_Infinity

    It shows what councils should be doing with their own ducts and access to street lights, plenty of manufacturers now with bolt on EV chargers to fit lampposts.

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