Qwest DSL backs up smart-grid trend

Will smart-grid pursuits be the next big trend among large telcos? A while back AT&T said it would partner with SmartSynch, and now Qwest Communications is working with Current Communications, the broadband over powerline player that evolved from an end user broadband focus toward a smart grid focus in the last year or so. In an ongoing trial involving the two companies and Xcel Energy in Boulder, Colo., Qwest's DSL broadband is serving to backhaul smart-grid data from connected homes to the utility company. Current's BPL gear in the home measures power consumption and transmits it to a DSL-linked sensor at a neighborhood telephone pole, where the information travels the telco network to a utility control center in the area.

Smart-grids for now may put telcos in the dumb network position that makes everyone in the industry bristle, but as evolving providers of home networks, they could eventually move into an household energy management role themselves. We haven't heard from Current Communications since it shut down a high-profile BPL trial in Dallas last year and sold the network to a utility, but its new business aims have locked in on what could be one of this year's biggest emerging trends.

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Current Communications sold its Dallas BPL network in May 2008
AT&T partnered with SmartSynch in March of this year