London’s super-sewer

Utility firms may be given access to run gigabit broadband cables in sewers

Image credit: James o’Jenkins, Tideway

Utility firms may soon be able to lay cables for broadband infrastructure inside water and sewer networks in order to speed up the rollout of gigabit internet.

The Government is also considering strengthening broadband companies’ access to run cables along new and existing infrastructure lining the road and rail networks across the UK.

Currently, civil works, in particular installing new ducts and poles, can make up as much as 80 per cent of the costs to industry of building new gigabit-capable broadband networks.

It is hoped the new measures will “significantly” reduce the time and cost it takes to roll out gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business in the UK, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged a full fibre rollout last year to be completed by 2025.

CityFibre, one of the firms building the infrastructure, yesterday announced plans to hire 10,000 people for the project. 

Research from the National Infrastructure Commission suggests infrastructure re-use could lead to an £8bn cost saving for companies deploying gigabit-capable broadband.

Minister for digital infrastructure Matt Warman said: “It makes both economic and common sense for firms rolling out gigabit broadband to make use of the infrastructure that already exists across the country.

“This will help them avoid the high costs and disruption of having to dig or build their own and ultimately benefit consumers.

“We’ve seen progress with improved access to Openreach’s ducts and poles, but other telecoms companies have large networks that are not easily accessible. We want them, and utility companies, to do more to open these up and help speed up getting next-generation broadband to people across the UK.”

Salisbury recently became the first entire UK city to gain access to Openreach’s ultrafast broadband network.

This week the company’s engineers completed what was described as the fastest city-wide network build in the UK, making full fibre broadband available to more than 20,000 premises in just under a year.

Openreach chief executive Clive Selley said: “This new digital platform can help the UK’s economy bounce back more quickly from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“A full recovery is likely to be measured in years rather than months, but there’s strong evidence that points to full fibre broadband being able to turbo-charge that process. 

“For Salisbury’s homes, shops, GP surgeries and schools, it will mean fewer broadband faults, faster connections, and a consistent, reliable network that will serve the city for decades to come.”

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