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Sewer broadband idea floated again

Scottish Water to pilot project

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Scottish Water is to allow its sewers to be used to roll-out a fibre broadband network to a business park at Rosyth in Fife.

At the moment, the tie-up between Fibrelink (Scotland) Ltd and Scottish Water is being plugged just as a pilot.

If the trial is successful, Scottish Water could allow cable to be threaded through 24,000 miles of it sewers to provide high-speed Internet services, removing the need and expense of digging up roads and streets.

Under the arrangement, Scottish Water will lease the space within its sewer network, effectively acting as the "landlord", or "sewerlord" for the fibre.

Fibrelink will provide the cabling and fibre before hooking up with telecoms providers to provide last link connectivity.

Chris Banks, Commercial Director of Scottish Water, said: “This is very much a pilot project to test the possibility of utilising the existing networks to build new communications capacity at reduced cost and with lower environmental impact during installation.

“We are not attempting to become communications experts but, for the first time, we are playing landlord to the real communication experts and allowing our sewer network to play host to a new communications infrastructure.”

If successful, it's hoped that this "low cost" method of rolling out fibre cold be employed elsewhere in the UK.

If all this sounds familiar, give yourself a pat on the back for paying attention. Two years ago, Thames Water and 186k, the telecoms business of Lattice Group, created a new joint venture company - Urband - to lay fibre optic cables along London's sewers.

At the time Urband claimed that the service would appeal to telcos, telehotels, and service providers and provide a "true alternative to BT for 'last mile' connectivity".

So, how is Urband doing these days?

A spokesman for Thames Water told us that 80km of cable has already been installed in London's sewers. However, the project has been "mothballed until market conditions improve". ®

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