Global • telecoms Power utility forays into the telecommunications industry continue. In the US, Aerie Networks, an alliance of major energy interests plans to roll out a national fibre-optic communications network along gas-pipe rights of way.

And, while the obvious synergy between communications and energy distribution networks is a key driver of the trend, technology is also pushing this activity.

Spanish utility Endesa recently agreed to acquire a 15 per cent stake in powerline communications (PLC) company DS2, which is developing voice and data transmission through electricity networks with speeds of up to 50 Mbits/s.

In Hungary, Novacom, which is 50 per cent held by distribution company Elmu, and 25 per cent each by RWE and EnBW of Germany, has been testing its PLC system in Germany. It plans to launch a 26 Mbit/s system in early 2001 and is due to commence testing in Hungary soon.

Similarly, Italy’s ENEL plans to offer communications service as part of its three year programme to supply digital meters to 27 million Italian homes. ENEL is to use Echelon Corp’s powerline transceivers in a contract worth around $300 million.