Faster Broadband on Tap

We’re so flooded with innovation in the tech world today, that we rarely read news that is genuinely headline grabbing. ‘Fibre in the water’, being trialled by Yorkshire Water, is however, definitely the exception.

The pilot is the first of its kind in the UK using water pipes to deliver high-speed internet. Broadband companies will be able to tap into cables running for 17km between Barnsley and Penistone, providing connectivity to more than 8,000 homes and businesses.

The government has been running this scheme since 2021 when it offered up to £4 million in R&D funding for a winning applicant to test the feasibility of providing broadband to hard to reach areas and simultaneously removing some of the risk of the PSTN switch off.

The hope is that as well as futureproofing two major industries by using the same infrastructure to deliver two services, customers will also eventually be able to receive discounts. Yorkshire Water is reported to have been given an initial £1.2million for their pilot, with the delivery of a further £2 million after the successful completion of the first stage.

Speak to anyone in the communications sector and you’ll know that digging up roads is one of the toughest challenges for broadband providers. Businesses and residents want and need the faster speeds longterm, but not the short-term disruption the technology brings to their towns and suburbs. Many have no idea why workers are digging up their roads and causing traffic jams, just that its making them late for work or blocking access to their businesses.

If it goes well over the next two years, this pilot will remove the greatest obstacle to the government’s plan to get the best broadband to every town and city. Using existing the water infrastructure in this way will also have the additional benefit of helping to reduce clean water leakage by 20%, a major step towards Ofwat’s target of 50%.

From research carried out in other countries there are two ways to put the hardware in place, the original way involved temporarily turning off the water supply which caused obvious difficulties for the local community (perhaps more so even than digging up the roads). The second method which has only recently become a viable option, is to feed it through the pipes with no halt to supply and this is the method that Yorkshire Water are using.

I think we will all be keeping a keen eye on where this goes and how IoT can help support, enable and monitor this delivery over the coming months and years. The success of this scheme will no doubt inspire other interesting ways to use existing infrastructure to improve access to technology for all and that can only be a good thing.

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