back to article Ofcom taps water network for next generation broadband

Ofcom will today announce an investigation into whether the roll-out of next generation broadband can be accelerated by using existing utilities infrastructure, such as the trenches that play host to the water network. The idea of reusing existing holes in the ground, to reduce the £15bn projected cost of building a national …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    British Waterways

    used to have a deal going with some fibre company - lets face it who else do you know who has routes into the hearts of most of the major English cities.

    Not sure what happened to it but it seemed like a sensible idea. Now if they could just put some access points along it.....

    Its the one with the built in life jacket

  2. John Chadwick

    Let's hope it won't leak as much.

    I can just see all those vital bits falling out of the broken fibre now.

    More seriously, would you trust the Water Board not to sever the cables each time they dig up the mains.

  3. Bill Fresher

    Weren't they going to use sewers?

    I thought we were going to get this through toilets. Which means the extra toilet I had installed for high speed internet access was a waste of money.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Google TiSP

    Google already had this idea:

  5. Paul

    RE:Weren't they going to use sewers?

    Probably given up as to a danger to the capacity of our sewers.

    There is enough shit traveling through them as it is.

  6. Anonymous John

    Re Weren't they going to use sewers?


    They could use both I suppose. The tap for uploads, and the bog for downloads.

  7. dervheid

    going to be...

    a long long time before we see a "national fibre network" then, isn't it?

    BTW, where the hell are they going to put all the fibre cables in the already overburdened utility trenches. Has anyone in the conceptual departments actaully SEEN how congested these things already are. Its not just a case of opening them up and/or using a 'mole'.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    The National Grid

    I might be wrong on this, but I'm sure somebody will shoot me down if I am.

    The fibres (in general) aren't affected by hi-voltage fields, so why not just string up a bundle of fibres along the National Grid Pylons.

    OK High winds/ light aircaft crashing into them, might take them out but since the power is out aswell, you're not going to notice much.

    The one with the earthing cable...

  9. Anonymous Coward

    @Google TiSP

    Seems like a great idea.

    However, step #3 reads: "Grasp both ends of the spindle firmly while a friend or loved one flushes". Problem is, I'm a true nerd so I don't have any friends and definitely don't have any loved ones. What am I supposed to do?

    Mine's the one on its own.

  10. Richard

    @The National Grid

    Energis did this 10 years ago ...

  11. Anonymous Coward

    @Google TiSP

    Gives a whole new meaning to "dark fibre"

  12. Peter Norris

    Not eating enough fibre...

    Put them in the sewers! Aren't we always being told we're not eating enough fibre.

  13. Jamie

    Been done

    That is how the Premier of Newfoundland laid fibre optic cable across St. John's.

    But I still prefer the idea of the tap for downloading, and the bog to upload. Just makes sense as this is the way the idea will probably go once the UK gov't start taking off with it.

  14. Steve
    Thumb Down

    National Grid pylons

    Since we're talking about the last mile your suggestion will only work for people who have a high voltage line attached directly to their house from a pylon.

    Hands up everyone who has that.

    What, no one.

    Most (all?) domestic electrical supplies come in underground, which takes us back to what is already being discussed.

  15. Dale

    Blocked pipe

    Works great until someone sends a Roto-Router down to clear out a blocked pipe.

  16. Red Bren
    Paris Hilton

    Before they start on the next generation network

    Is there any chance they could finish the last one? There are still too many areas of the country that are supposedly in a Telewest/NTL/VM franchise area that the cable will never reach because it's too costly, which gives BT absolutely no incentive to invest.

    OFCOM should give VM an ultimatum - finish the rollout or the franchises will be re-tendered, allowing other companies or local authorities to finish the job.

    If and when a next generation network is put in place, OFCOM should insist that the current have-nots are connected first.

    Or am I being naive for expecting OFCOM to promote customer interests and competition?

  17. Andy ORourke

    @Anonymous John

    Brings a new meaning to "logging off"

  18. Anonymous Coward

    i remember there being green


    does anyone remember when the UK used to have lots of trees growing in the streets,

    then Cable (1991-96) came along and ripped the pavements and roads up and tore-up all the roots and killed off all the green stuff in our cities.

    looks like they are gonna do it again, it was choas the last time with all those rolling roadworks.

    only thing green in most streets is the anoying green box with the doors that are not locked and all the wires hanging out (with lots of happy :s customers without internet and TV services) thanks to the bored chavs with nowhere and nothing to do in the evenings (i mean have you actually tried watching british TV recenty).

    re: firbre on HT powerlines, they already have some up there, but they have physical limits on the weight of the cables they can put up there and there is always the risk of wind vibration causing breaks in the cables.

    the majority of the fibre backbone in the UK is routed along the railway lines (they laid this lot back in the early 80's) the other option is alongside the motorways (not that anyone would notice additional roadworks clogging up the nation)

    sewage systems would probably be seriously damaged if they tried screwing anything into rotting brick walls(only thing keeping them up anyway is the weight of earth above them anyway).

    looks like it back to ripping the streets up and pissing everyone off again if its gonna be fibre to the door nationwide.

    they could always use the existing routes that they tore up to lay the GAS and Petrochem pipelines that cris-cross the nation, they tended to route them across open countryside.

    mines the crinkly(tinfoil) high-viz jacket... (with the keys to the JCB in);p


  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: British Waterways

    "used to have a deal going with some fibre company - lets face it who else do you know who has routes into the hearts of most of the major English cities."

    It was called Ipsaris, it was a Marconi network until Easynet bought it.

    Pretty much all of Easynets UK business services run over it.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Not so fast there...

    I notice they're already telling us about all the fancy stuff we'd be able to do with 100Mb/s connections.

    Err... that'd be "up to" 100Mb/s though, wouldn't it?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Has anyone considered the novel approach of using some kind of overhead "telegraph poles"?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC Re: telegraph poles

    Okay. I've thought about this seriously for a few moments and I think the solution's simple:

    Use hollowed out kerb stones to contain the cables.

  23. Richard Grimwood

    7 years late

    Waterways - was Ipsaris became Easynet now sky.

    Railways - was Fibernet now Global crossing

    Pylons - was SSE now NEOS as subdivision of SSE

    All of this was 7 years ago. The problem is virtually none of this fibre gets into your local Telephone exchange. Which is where it is needed to help the LLU investors break the BT monopoly on fibre. BT fibre is the financial bottleneck to low contention high speed Internet connectivity.

    Mines the one with the FC connectors in the pocket

  24. Ian Sneyd

    @Red Bren

    Sadly this will have no effect, the franchises where only of any value because they were "exclusive" once the cablecos had laid the cable to all of the chav housing estates to compete with sky they knew that everywhere else wasn't going to make a profit so surrendered their franchise knowing full well no-one else would want the cost of digging up unprofitable areas....

    The only "punisment" for not completing the 100% build out would have been the withdrawal of their exclusive franchise... oh but wait haven't we just voluntarily surrendered that... oops I think I just spotted a tiny flaw in the system ;-)

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Not a good idea

    Putting competitors' fibre down BT ducts is not a good idea. If the fibre is in the way, the BT engineer working in the box will just chop the cable, same with leccy and water. Besides, what duct space do the think they're going to put this in? BT and the utilties are pretty hard pushed as it is.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    The cheapo alternative

    When an electrician can't be bothered sinking cables into walls he uses some sort of conduit or trunking instead...

    Just an idea.

    You see them beside railway lines carrying cables all over the place. Why not on pavements too?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good to see a multi pronged approach

    The more the merrier, cheaper access, more things to deliver, more tech knowhow required.

    I would like to see ideas using nature as a conduit, trees that grow fast but with room for cable, or just have the ability to carry a network signal - scifi perhaps but it would be good to merge technology into a natural ecosystem.

    The sewer idea is brilliant, the water one maybe not so if it involves people digging up the roads, but still why not just lay some fibre there it will probably last for quite a few decades and just contributes to the overall available bandwidth. We should be building as a society - knocking down and building better things all the time, it just helps keep the economy moving. Down with listed buildings, literally.

  28. Ideala2
    Paris Hilton

    Tomorrow's headlines:


    The government has announced a browsing ban due to overwhelming demand for it calls an "unexpected" paris hilton video.

    This despite the fact that IT experts had previously warned the govt about this phenomenon, known as GLOBAL PERVING.

    Customers in this region are already hard hit by fibre operator, THAMES FIBRE's inability to repair data leakages which apparently cost the online shopper millions.

    A spokesman for the company said 'it isn't our fault that other operators can fix their lines. our mangers need those bonuses'.

    </ end news>

    Yes... umm, tomorrow is a bit optimistic eh?

    And sorry, global perving was the best i had.

  29. Matt


    If someone had the foresight (and balls to spend money on) wide utility service tunnels a few years ago then perhaps there would be less problems with supplying services to homes now... ahhhhh, no roadworks! Perhaps new services (extra phone lines, broadband, cable-style TV etc etc) they could have been rolled out quite quickly, and when gas and water mains need replacing, that would be easier too.

  30. night troll

    Well if....

    ....OFCOM are involved then that is that idea bollexed. They are only interested in profits for the big corps not service for the masses. :-(

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Our Town has just been cut off due to a main's blow

    Houses were flooded, the road surface buckled .... absolute chaos, so we would have been off the net too!

  32. AJ
    IT Angle

    VM Would Extend Network...

    ... Simple due to the cost of laying the cable and the amount of debt they are still trying to pay off from the major network roll out when it was the smaller firms.

    Considering VM cover 55% of the UK now, If OFCOM want to think of ways of giving the UK 99% coverage to high speed internet through fibre then offering VM a cash incentive to expand the network, upgrade the exisiting areas, lay cabling on new build estates and offer a wholesale agreement to sell services to the likes of BT, SKY, and Talk Talk similar to Openreach whilst not causing an issue with the current network then it maybe an option, or FORCE VM to open up the network like they did with BT if they dont comply?

    Only other option I can see is these major firms investing a % together to build a new next generation infrastructure they all partly own and share which will replace the ageing BT copper network, or the government invest the £15bn in building their own network, if BT was never privatised then this would be an option now and we as a country wouldnt be in such a mess with shoddy copper networks which cant offer all the services this article suggests and change the way we see communication, television ETC

  33. Lins Annison

    Start with the disconnecteds

    C'mon baby light my fibre........ sing along now.....

    Those of us in rural areas can usually point to a railway line with fibre, or a mobile mast or school with plenty spare capacity, or an A road with dark fibre down it, within, often, 1km or so, or at least within a 'doable' distance for fibre and VDSL (I know of a map or two..... ) but we won't be asked for any input into this latest review though, as ever.

    Ofcom needs to pull their finger out, as does the BSG etc, and stop pandering to the telcos. Join the dots a lot better than they have been doing for the last decade or so.

    The people who matter are the consumers and businesses who are suffering right now, with crap connectivity for the foreseeable, let alone in the future. Stuff the folks who are skewing the stats to say that this country has an average of 4Mbps AAAAAAA (note the A?) dsl.

    Stop the telcos jumping on the honeypots of Ebbsfleet, large cities, new devs of 1000+ properties only etc, and make them invest some of that profit back into UK Plc through the areas with the most businesses and consumers in. Let's ponder where the largest number of businesses might be?

    Hmm, teleworkers and SMEs outnumber large corporates? Never. Note the spread of those - oh, rural, you say? Gosh, and you got this from the Database Error department? And ONS? And the Telework Association? And ... where do more people live in total in UK? Rural or urban areas.... ?? 15 million tourists a year through the Lake District? And London has around 12-15? Cor blimey. We have how many National Parks with similar tourist figures?

    So, what about those of us in rural areas on waterlogged, rotten, lengthy and often forgotten copper?

    Let's think about this much touted average....I've got 1megish on a good day through a cracking award winning community network, my neighbour (about 400m away) has a 1/4Mbps, most of the village has bugger all, and 10 neighbours within approx a mile have barely any dial up. Within 10 miles from here are 15 households sharing 8 lines just for voice. How well are they contributing to this 'downturn' in the economy? (Well, the petrol stations are thriving.......)

    Don't say: report it.

    Don't think we haven't tried. In fact, many people have been to events and conferences held across the country about this way back when since 2001/2 onwards, when it became OBVIOUS for the enlightened (not by fibre, obviously) that there were already issues fact, it got to the point where we approached Nabisco and others to help get the message out there.

    "Fibre is good for you"

    Now, I'm working on this theory with rhubarb seems fairly fibrous, potentially eco-friendly, cheap, plentiful, (a bit like sand is, really), and hellish easy to plant.

    So much so, maybe we should emulate the Nordic nations and start a "Dig where you Live" campaign.......... Put your own fibre in the ground??

    I've got a mole plough............I'll get my coat, let's go outside and start digging!

  34. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    I remember ...

    watching a program on telly about the sewers under Paris.

    Huge spaces, nicely tiled, and strung along the walls were the other pipes and cables for the other services. Water in along the pipe, waste out along the bottom ! All the branches had street signs, and each connection point for a building had the number on a nice enamelled sign.

    Like someone has already pointed out, if we'd had a standard system of putting in a large duct under all new streets for a few years, then a lot of estates would now have large ducting with easy access by now. That's the problem, no foresight for god know how many years.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @ Simon

    I agree, if we plan for the future now and sewers under new builds are all made with large ducts then it would pave the wave to run ables along the sewers to provide everything we need - I know some on building sites are big enough to walk inside for the smaller person, but not big enough to run additional fibre cables which is what we need to get 95% of the UK connected to fibre internet!

  36. pctechxp

    I got the idea and the work ethic

    If you got the money.

    Seriously, all it would require would be for a VC or billionaire to stump up the cash, H20 to build the fibre network and me and probably several hundred reg reading volu8nteers to set up the routers (one in every street) and of course some at LINX, LoNAP and MaNAP and a Network Operations Centre in London.

    Fibre to the kerb and ethernet to the home!

    So then, Sir Richard, why don't you dump that albatross of a cable firm and give people what they really want, good quality, high speed internet access operated by people who are enthusiastic and know about the technology for the benefit of the UK web surfing community and I'm sure a gesture like that would be remembered long after your ballooning exploits have been forgotten, so how about it?

    As for the rest of the reading audience, whose with me?

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