First published on Total Telecom by Harry Baldock
This week, BT’s start-up and Digital incubation team Etc. has announced that it will oversee a number of pilot programmes to transform decommissioned broadband cabinets into charging points for electric vehicles (EVs).
These cabinets, dotted all over streets of the UK, currently provide copper-based broadband and phone services to local consumers. However, as the UK’s networks rapidly shift to full fibre architecture, these cabinets are becoming obsolete, prompting BT Group to consider repurposing the.
According to BT, the scope of the pilot projects will include a range of technical, operational, and commercial analysis, from upgrade viability based on location to potential joint venture business models to commercialise the would-be EV network.
The first of these pilot projects will reportedly take place in Northern Ireland later this autumn, with more locations added across the UK before the end of the year. The various tests are expected to continue for two years before commercialisation can be considered.
If successful, these conversions could end up as a significant proportion of the UK’s national EV infrastructure. The entire country currently has around 45,000 charging points operational, but the government has plans to invest £1.6 billion to increase this figure to 300,000 by 2030.
Tom Guy, Managing Director of Etc, said:
“With the ban on sales of internal combustion engine vehicles coming in 2030, and with only around 45,000 public charge points today, the UK needs a massive upgrade to meet the needs of the EV revolution.
“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect for good in a whole new way by innovating around our cabinet infrastructure. The pilots are critical for the team to work through the assessment and establish effective technical, commercial and operational routes to market over the next two years.”
Ultimately, not every cabinet BT owns is likely to be converted, since not all of them will prove cost-effective or be in practical locations. Nonetheless, initial estimates suggest around two-thirds of BT Group’s 90,000 cabinets could be suitable for the upgrade.
BT Group is not alone in considering repurposing this soon-to-be legacy infrastructure for EV purposes. Virgin Media O2, for example, has been working alongside Liberty Global’s joint venture Liberty Charge since 2021 to deploy a small number of charging points leveraging their own cabinet and duct infrastructure.