Broadband delivered via water pipes being trialled in South Yorkshire

The UK Government is trialling deployment of full fibre broadband via water pipes located in South Yorkshire

According to a Government announcement released today, water pipes between Barnsley and Penistone will be utilised, with the potential to connect up to 8,500 homes and businesses to faster broadband.

The trial is being delivered by Yorkshire Water, alongside Arcadis and the University of Strathclyde.

A first of its kind trial in the UK, this will also allow experts to explore how fibre can help the water industry detect leaks, operate more efficiently and lower carbon costs generated by drinking water.

Additionally, the project aims to power new 5G masts to connect people in hard-to-reach areas.

The trial will last for up to two years, and if successful, the infrastructure will be set to be implemented into networks from 2024, being replicated in other parts of the UK.

“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,” said Digital Infrastructure Minister, Julia Lopez.

“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.”

Sam Bright, innovation programme manager at Yorkshire Water, commented: “We are very pleased that the Government is supporting the development of the Fibre in Water solution, which can reduce the environmental impact and day-to-day disruptions that can be caused by both water and telecoms companies’ activities.

“The technology for fibre in water has significantly progressed in recent years, and this project will now enable us to fully develop its potential to help improve access to better broadband in hard-to-reach areas and further reduce leakage on our networks.”

Ensuring safety and compliance

The first phase, which commences today, will involve focus on the legal and safety aspects of the solution, and ensure that combining clean water and telecoms services in a single pipeline is safe, secure and commercially viable before any installation is carried out.

From here, sensors will be inserted into the water pipes, which will help utilities firms improve the speed and accuracy of leak identification and repair.

The technology being deployed has been approved by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI), which requires rigorous testing ahead of approving any products and processes that introduce them into drinking water pipes.

With water companies committing to delivering a 50% reduction in leakage, this trial looks to help firms to reach this goal.


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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.