UK city to get fibre via sewers 'within two years'

Dark fibre plus sewers equals more convenience and an increased flow of bits — up to 100Mbps to every business and residential property

The UK could have its first city with complete fibre connectivity from cables laid through sewers in the next two years.

Speaking to on Wednesday, networking firm H2O says its method of running fibre through sewers means it can deploy 100Mbps connections to a small city in under two years.

It is currently talking to several councils before deciding which city will be first to get total coverage. This will be announced at the end of April. H2O has been testing the water with relatively small-scale deployments to Bournemouth City Council and Hillhead student village halls of residence in Dundee. 

"We don't need permission from the [city] council, but this does benefit them," said managing director Elfred Thomas. "If they have fibre it should help bring investment, and we'd expect the council to be a customer too."

In the coming five years Thomas expects to deploy fibre to as many as 12 small to-medium-sized cities. "Big cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester have a lot of fibre already so we will concentrate on places where there is not so much. To pull fibre through 1,500m of sewers takes us about four hours, compared to laying normal cable which would take anything up to six months," said Thomas.

Pumping internet bits through sewers is not new: the practice has been used by companies in France, and CableRunner North America, Ca-botics Fiber Systems and CityNet Telecommunications have pioneered the practice in parts of North America. Thomas says that in the UK H2O has the edge on any would-be rivals due to its agreements with water companies.

"We've been working on this and have agreements in place with Wessex Water, Anglian Water, Scottish Water and Yorkshire Water, and are speaking to Severn Trent," Thomas said.