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SSE Enterprise Telecoms Forms UK Water Utility Group to Boost Fibre

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020 (9:00 am) - Score 1,187
sewer pipes manhole uk

SSEEnterprise Telecoms (SSEET), which manages a large fibre optic network that runs across the United Kingdom, has launched a new independently chaired Technical User Group (TUG) that aims to bring together 5 of the country’s top water companies to help “improve nationwide connectivity“, as well as reduce pollution and flooding.

At present SSEET already runs some of its fibre optic cables through existing water infrastructure in dense metro cities to help improve connectivity and cut build costs – known as Fibre in the Sewers (FiS). In keeping with that they hope to agree a common set of standards for laying cables in this way, which could potentially help them to extend their network even further and for less cost.

The UK contains hundreds of thousands of miles of sewers across the country, some dating back to the Victorian era, although their performance is vulnerable to external threats like heavy rainfall and blockages. Not to mention that some sewers simply aren’t big or stable enough for new fibre cables to be run.

However regulators are currently setting strict targets for water and wastewater management companies to reduce pollution/flooding incidents by up to 73% in the next 5 years. In theory the deployment of new optical fibre cables could help that, such as by providing real-time data on wastewater flows and pollution levels via smart monitoring (this will also help SSEET to monitor its own network).

Suffice to say that SSEET sees an opportunity to both help water companies and themselves, at the same time. A further bi-product of this fibre project is that, as well as helping to spread gigabit capable broadband via fixed line ISPs, it will also support Mobile Network Operators in their roll-out of 5G technology across some of the UK’s major cities.

Paul Clark, Sector Director for Utilities at SSEET, said:

“We understand that it’s a critical requirement to keep disruption to a minimum when working on such projects, so we are maximising the use of existing assets including the sewer network to lay fibre. This has helped keep costs down and eventually will enable the real-time monitoring of water flow activity, ensuring strong, lasting relationships with some of the UK’s leading water and sewerage companies.

By establishing the TUG we have brought some of the key players into one room to agree a common set of standards, that not only enable us to further develop our connectivity offerings via the sewer, but also deploy cutting edge monitoring technology. This technology will help these providers monitor the flow of sewage, and better manage their infrastructure, which will futureproof them for years to come.”

Paul Kerr, MD of Scottish Water Horizons (TUG Member), said:

“Scottish Water has 32,000 miles of wastewater pipes throughout Scotland. It makes perfect sense to utilise this vast infrastructure in order to help enable telecommunications, reduce disruption to our customers and the environment, and support smart networks to provide real-time monitoring.

With most of us using the internet and our mobile phones on a daily basis, there is a constant demand for increased and improved communications infrastructure. By using the existing sewer network, we can support SSE Enterprise Telecoms in their development of a set of standard specifications to support the deployment of fibre in the sewer network, whilst ensuring that the Scottish Water network is protected.”

The TUG will regularly convene to enable water companies to exchange technical information for the purpose of creating specifications and codes of practice relating to the deployment of telecommunications ducts and fibre optical cables within sewer pipes. Sadly it’s unclear how long it will take to agree a new standard.

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar Callum Jones says:

    I’ve never seen this done before. Where has this come from? Is it used a lot in the U.K.?

    1. Avatar Peter Jamieson says:

      In London, quite a bit. I think City Fibre have also done it in various places.

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