Water Industry News

Broadband To Be Delivered Through The Water Network!

A new project is now underway in South Yorkshire that will see full fibre broadband deployed safely via drinking water mains pipes between Barnsley and Penistone. If the trial is successful, it could ultimately see up to 8,500 homes and businesses connected to faster broadband.


The aim of the project is to see whether the rollout of broadband could be accelerated without having to dig up any local roads, with fibre optic cables deployed across 17km of live drinking water mains. This would then see broadband companies able to access the network to deliver connections to properties in previously hard-to-reach areas.


The Fibre in Water trials will take place over the course of two years, with the technology potentially operational from 2024 onwards if the pilots prove successful.


The majority of the costs associated with building new gigabit-capable broadband networks comes from civil works such as the installation of new ducts and poles.


It’s hoped that the scheme will show that there is a more efficient, more eco-friendly and more cost-effective way of connecting homes, businesses and mobile masts without causing the disruption to infrastructure seen previously.


Julia Lopez, digital infrastructure minister, commented: “Digging up roads and land is one of the biggest obstacles to rolling out faster broadband, so we’re exploring how we can make use of the existing water network to accelerate deployment and help detect and minimise water leaks.


“We’re committed to getting homes and businesses across the country connected to better broadband and this cutting-edge project is an exciting example of the bold measures this government is leading on to level up communities with the very best digital connectivity.”


In addition, 5G masts will be set up to bring wireless broadband to inaccessible areas where wired solutions would have been too costly to deliver. Other work will also look into how fibre could help with water leak detection, as well as improving operational efficiencies and reducing the carbon cost of drinking water supplies.


In the UK, 20 per cent of water being put into public supply is wasted every day because of leakage and with the technology we have currently it can be difficult for water suppliers to pinpoint exactly where leaks are to arrange the appropriate repairs.


But this project will see how feasible it is to use fibre sensors in pipe networks to improve the speed and accuracy of water leak detection and repair.


Before the fibre optic cables are used in the water mains in a real-world setting, the Drinking Water Inspectorate will have to approve the proposed solutions. Rigorous testing will be required before any products are approved for use in drinking water pipes.


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