Everybody's talking about electric utilities dabbling in telecommunications. That's fine. But how about vice versa? Maybe what we've really got is telephone companies (and cable television, too) getting into energy. That's different. A whole lot different.
Swing Your Partner
The last few months have seen a flurry of deals and strategic alliances between telephone or cable companies and electric utilities, all aimed in some way at marrying energy services with information technology and software. I can think of at least five:
s Entergy + First Pacific Networks
s PSE&G + AT&T (also includes Honeywell, GE, Intellon, American Meter, and Andersen Consulting)
s Tampa Electric + IBM
s SoCal Edison + Cox Cable
s PG&E + Microsoft + TCI
These alliances promise a cornucopia of energy services: automatic meter reading, remote on/off switching, residential demand-side management, temper (energy theft) detection, outage detection, customer surveys, real-time pricing, power-quality monitoring, and distribution system automation (SCADA services via broadband could save telephone charges over the public switched network).
But those features all serve the electric side. What's in it for telcos and cable companies? (Better yet, what's in it for Microsoft, which seems to own a piece of everything except a telephone network.)