Broadband rollout trial to target hard-to-reach homes

Fibre broadband cables could be fed through the country’s water pipes as part of the government’s plan to speed up the nationwide roll out of lightning-fast broadband.

Up to £4 million is being made available for cutting-edge innovators to trial what could be a quicker and more cost-effective way of connecting fibre optic cables to homes, businesses and mobile masts, without the disruption caused by digging up roads and land.

Civil works, in particular installing new ducts and poles, can make up as much as four fifths of the costs to industry of building new gigabit-capable broadband networks. It is hoped that the new scheme could turbocharge the government’s £5 billion Project Gigabit plan to level up broadband access in hard-to-reach areas as well as the £1 billion Shared Rural Network which will bring strong and reliable 4G phone signals to many of the most isolated parts of the country.

The project will also look to test solutions that reduce the amount of water lost every day due to leaks, which is 20 per cent of the total put into the public supply. It will involve putting connected sensors in the pipes which allow water companies to improve the speed and accuracy with which they can identify a leak and repair it. Water companies have committed to delivering a 50 per cent reduction in leakage, and this project can help to reach that goal.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “The cost of digging up roads and land is the biggest obstacle telecoms companies face when connecting hard-to-reach areas to better broadband, but beneath our feet there is a vast network of pipes reaching virtually every building in the country. So we are calling on Britain’s brilliant innovators to help us use this infrastructure to serve a dual purpose of serving up not just fresh and clean water but also lightning-fast digital connectivity.”

Supplier Profiles