The replacement of analogue telephone networks through the long planned 2025 digital switchover leaves behind a legacy of mostly green BT cabinets that are found on many streets and BT has found a new use for them to help with the move to net zero by turning them into electric vehicle (EV) charging points.
Just before Christmas, MPs debated the long planned for 2025 switchover of telephone lines from the old analog copper network to digital communications. Some raised concerns about how it would affect vulnerable communities and their ability to communicate with the emergency services in the event of extreme weather incidents.
“We have until the end of 2025 to get this right, but in terms of Government policy and given that there will be a general election in that period, we know that that sort of timescale can pass in the blink of an eye. This matters to people throughout the United Kingdom. It predominantly causes concern in rural communities because, in the switchover from analogue to digital communications, we have been the ones who have constantly been left behind—although I know that there are also urban communities that will be affected.”Alastair Carmichael MP for Orkney and Shetland.
Back in the June issue of Emergency Services Times, tech company Krucial wrote about the PSTN switchover and how the emergency services could take advantage of a hybrid solution to ease the transfer. Having been announced in 2017, the switchover is not new but clearly concerns MPs.
Ahead of the Westminster Hall debate, BT sent in written evidence for members to consider. It concluded:
“For the very small proportion of customers (less than 1 per cent), with insufficient mobile or broadband connectivity to make a call to the emergency services, we will continue to meet our commitments under the Telephony Universal Service Obligation (USO) to ensure they remain connected.”
As the switchover continues, a small incubator within BT called Etc. is already testing out how the BT street cabinets traditionally used for phone cabling can be utilised to provide charging points for EVs. This could go some way to meet the demands of the driving public as well as the emergency services as they expand their EV fleets across the UK.
Given the debate before Christmas was initiated by a Scottish MP, it is an interesting coincidence that the first charging point installation is in Scotland, with further pilot locations being rolled out across the UK in the coming months. Etc said that EV charging could be deployed to cabinets currently in use for broadband services and those due for retirement.
The charging solution works by retrofitting the cabinets with a device that enables renewable energy to be shared to a charge point alongside the existing broadband service with no need to create a new power connection.
The pilot is in its early stages and the first step is for technical trials to see if there is potential to upgrade the 60,000 cabinets across the UK.
BT Group’s recent research found that 60 per cent of people think the UK’s EV charging infrastructure is inadequate, with 78 per cent of petrol and diesel drivers saying not being able to conveniently charge an EV is a barrier to getting one.
Tom Guy is Managing Director of Etc. He announced on LinkedIn that Etc. is to receive an an award for innovation for this EV work at this year’s top tech show, CES which is taking place in Las Vegas this week.
“Our new charging solution is a huge step in bringing EV charging kerbside and exploring how we can address key barriers customers are currently facing. Working closely with local councils in Scotland and more widely across the UK, we are at a critical stage of our journey in tackling a very real customer problem that sits at the heart of our wider purpose to connect for good.”Tom Guy, Managing Director, Etc.
Jess Kyte is Product Designer at Etc. and provides more details on the pilot in this LinkedIn post Could green cabinets be the future of EV street charging?