Harvesting Solar

Federal Communications Commission regulations require telcos to provide an eight-hour battery backup, and new regulations in August require they offer customers an option for a 24-hour backup.

As a result, more companies are looking for the best option for that backup, and even solar is a possibility, says Chris Wacker, president of EPSi, a power supply manufacturer.

Traditional copper phone lines always carried a tiny bit of electricity, and phones could still work during a power outage. Fiber, however, does not conduct electricity, and a power outage interrupts phone service. Battery backups, however, can maintain the connection.

Harvesting solar power to feed network devices is one cost-effective way to provide an uninterruptible power source, Wacker says. An engineer in the telco industry for many years, he started the company to address the need to provide cost-effective, battery backups.

The company’s smallest, traditional backup solution can provide 14 hours of power, and a larger solution provides 28 to 30 hours of power. The product range gives telcos options that meet federal requirements, while also providing up-sell opportunities for the telco.

“Then, we designed an industry-first to provide those very rural customers a small solar panel that gives 36 hours of continuous runtime, and then you get 10 to 12 hours per day after that,” Wacker says.

One telco in southern Kansas is converting its entire network to solar backups. Wacker says. “They can reassure Mr. Customer that phone service works just like it used to,” he says.

As many customers move to fiber optic-powered services, a battery backup is critical. “If you’re doing the absolute minimum, you are doing your customers a disservice,” Wacker says. “At least give them the option to purchase the larger units.”

Chris Wacker appeared on Season 2, Episode 9 of StoryConnect: The Podcast. Listen in.