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Hydro utilities get on the telephone

Hydro electric utilities are offering communication services to around six million customers in Ontario under agreements between the utilities and Symphony Telecom.

The agreements are said to allow hydro utilities to make use of their networks, and their good reputation with customers, to act as provider for other services.

New agreements due to be signed in early February with more utilities were expected to give Symphony access to up to four million potential new customers.

Many electricity utilities began installing fibre optic cables along their distribution networks some years ago, but as Gilles Trahan of Symphony Telecom explains, some found that there was much more to becoming a telecommunications supplier than having an available network.

Symphony aims to provide the market knowledge and telecommunications experience that can make use of the existing fibre optic networks. The partnership means the hydro utility can offer telephone, internet and messaging services ‘badged’ as its own services, employing Symphony’s expertise. Symphony will manage marketing, service provision, billing etc.

Trahan says many customers continue to use their traditional telecoms supplier simply because it is familiar, but they may change if the alternative supplier is also familiar, such as their utility supplier.

For a hydro utility this offers a chance to use a good reputation to extend the service that it offers to customers, and increase their income base.

Trahan says that hydro utilities have responded very quickly to this idea, and they are ideal partners because they often have good fibre runs. In the few months since Symphony began offering the partnering service some 19 hydro utilities have already signed up. They have begun supplying telecommunications services to over six million customers.

For hydro utilities that do not have fibre optic networks already, Trahan says, Symphony can use other networks and ‘badge’ the telecommunications services to the utility.The utility may decide as it upgrades its network whether to include dedicated fibre runs.