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SSE to build fibre broadband network in London’s sewers

SSE Enterprise Telecoms has signed an agreement with Thames Water to deploy fibre broadband cables throughout the utility’s sewage pipes

Communications services provider (CSP) SSE Enterprise Telecoms has signed an operating licence to deploy agreement with Thames Water to enable the distribution of fibre broadband cables throughout Thames’ network of sewage and wastewater pipes in southeast England.

SSE said that as a direct consequence of the recent Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) ruling that forced Openreach to bin plans to open up its dark fibre network to rival providers, it had been forced to seek “new and creative” ways to enable connectivity.

“With an ever-increasing demand for connectivity, network infrastructures require higher resiliency and improved diversity. Estimates suggest there are as many as 3,000 enterprises in the finance and insurance sectors in the City of London area alone, each vying for connectivity,” said SSE director of service solutions Mike Magee. “This has made the demand for unique, truly diverse network routes hard to achieve. We’ve identified a way to solve this by leveraging the waste water network.”

SSE claimed that by using the existing sewage system, it could potentially reduce the costs of a standard network deployment dig by 60%, and deploy connectivity services 10 times faster.

It should also be physically more secure – the Thames Water network sits up to 10 metres underground, meaning it ought to be less susceptible to accidental network breaks compared to standard fibre networks, which are laid as shallow as 12 inches below ground level.

“Our Victorian sewers are already home to a number of pipes and cables belonging to other utility companies and we’re glad to also now be supporting SSE Enterprise Telecoms,” said Richard Hill, Thames Water head of property, Thames Water.

“Reducing roadworks and traffic congestion is something hugely important to us, so it’s great to help a fellow utility company do the same by allowing them to make use of our existing infrastructure.”

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The wide spread of Thames Water’s waste water network, which covers Greater London, most of Surrey, parts of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and the Thames Valley as far west as Swindon, will also help SSE offer bespoke network build-outs to a wider range of businesses, particularly along the M4 corridor.

“With the sensitive information large businesses and financial services firms hold, coupled with regulatory pressures, networks must be secure and robust. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that network deployment is about competitive advantage – being able to provide a guaranteed, instant customer experience is no longer a nice to have,” said Magee.

“As technology changes and new innovations are released, it is essential networks can cope with increased capacity requirements and have the ability to easily scale their connectivity services to meet this need. Our operating licence to deploy with Thames Water allows us to be one of few to genuinely fit the sector’s needs,” he concluded.

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