Hopefully all that fibre will keep the sewers regular...
London's Victorian sewer network is to be made accessible to fibre cables under a deal between SSE Enterprise Telecoms and Thames Water. The agreement means SSE has managed to circumnavigate any reliance on BT's Openreach network, having said it has been frustrated by the slow progress made on opening up the former state …
They were going to do this in Dundee. Turned into a massive scam. I'm sure SSE will keep everything above board and shiny ¦-|
Turned into a massive scam
Well spotted that man! Note in particular at the bottom the Telegraph article: "The fibre-optic networks it did manage to install prior to its collapse were bought out of administration and formed the foundation of CityFibre, a listed broadband infrastructure provider that is not linked to any wrongdoing." Now, who has just announced a tie up with City Fibre? Why, its Vodafone, fresh from its non-success in merging with Liberty Global or Virginmedia. Whilst there's often room for more than one data cable down the sewers, there's not unlimited capacity, so SSE maybe knowingly locking CF out of London?
Maybe SSE are hoping to create a London network that CityFibre will have to buy - CF's target cities list is notable for the absence of The Stink. And if SSE build a decent London presence, they could use CF/Voda's need for that London footprint to compel one or other to buy SSE's entire non-core telecoms activity, which otherwise is a rather oddly shaped beast that doesn't look of much appeal to the big boys.
Alternatively, SSE are going for a full-on London multi-utility offer. When you buy some new apartments in London, SSE are already the default electricity supplier, heat supplier (no gas, no choice!), they provide monopoly water and sewerage services via what's called an inset appointment, and they are contracting the last hundred yards of telecomms (in apartment buildings few companies will duplicate wire the premises if there's already gigabit broadband).
I'd never heard of the Competition Appeal Tribunal before now. It turns out that they exist to hear appeals against decisions made by Ofcom.
Ofcom, of course, exists to regulate the activities of (amongst others) Internet Service Providers.
Personally, I think we are missing a level of oversight here. Who oversees the activities of the Competition Appeal Tribunal? Who keeps them on the straight and narrow?
We need another quango!
Can I suggest we call this one the Data Oversight Group?
Back in the 80s when I was in this business (planning the BT digital trunk network) I was occasionally asked why we didn't use underground rail tunnels for routing cables in view of the obvious attractions. The problem comes with getting access to faulty cables while bloody great trains keep whizzing through the tunnels for upwards of 18 hours a day. "Sorry, can you suspend the Northern Line while we fix this problem please".
I expect much the same of sewage tunnels except with fewer trains and more added dampness plus piles of ordure. Then there are the aforementioned Fatbergs to consider. Much of the problem with London's sewers comes from having a combined rainwater and foul water system. Indeed, the whole system is designed to use the rainwater to push the lumps through to the collection stations. When there is a major rainfall, there can be overflow into the Thames. If you view the Embankment wall at low tide you can see large cast steel shutters which excess water force open. This is what caused much of the more recent pollution to the river. Much work has been done to stop this but the problem of access to cables in sewers remains.
Splicing fibre cables while up to my waste in London's finest is not a job I fancy.
"while up to my waste..."
But surely access to sewers is much easier.
Certainly not without problems, but easier than ripping up Kensington High Street to replace a fibre, or stopping the Northern Line.
I don't think the fatbergs etc. would exactly hurt. If anything, the fibre going down would make them clean them a bit more often if they're going to lose money because of it. And, pretty much, insulated fibre isn't going to care what it's floating in, unlike electricity and metal gas pipes that already run through there.
I foresee the problem of rats (who chew things just because they are there), but if you were allowed to just throw a ton of cheap fibre through the sewers that exist, you'd have a highly-redundant-enough network that the odd breakage wouldn't really interfere much, if at all.
To be honest, the problem is one of planning more than anything. If you want to change or expand a site, you should be forced to change or expand the sewers, the roads, the parking, the utilities, etc. in keeping with that, rather than "that'll do". And after a while of doing that, you'd quickly see someone make a "services accessible" road, with all that stuff built-in, plus spares, plus convenient access points, on a modular system that you could actually use for all new / refurb roads. Then rather than having to have telephone poles up there, gas pipes crossing that street, sewers in parallel, electricity cables at angles to the roads, surface water and foul water in the same drain, etc. you could just do it in one. The Romans knew this, we've clearly ignored it for thousands of years.
Sure, legacy London would still be a problem, but that's a problem for them to pay for and sort out, whether than means digging it up and doing it properly, or paying the ongoing costs / fines. If you don't want it to happen, you tax them per litre dumped into the Thames, they'll soon find it cheaper to rip things up and start again.
Hell, I'm still waiting for the days when you don't have to dig open the roads at all, and anything you might want to access is just underneath the road via a convenient manhole every now and then. Lift up, drop down equipment, get into it, work without disturbing THOUSANDS of drivers. I honestly don't get why it's a sensible idea to keep digging up the same aggregate and re-laying it over and over and over again when you could just design the road properly in the first place. Literally legislate "all new roads must have underground access for all non-road-related works". Then only the occasional replacement of asphalt need stop the road, not every pipe, leak, cable change, etc.
"unlike electricity and metal gas pipes that already run through there."
I sincerely hope not. Metal gas pipes down there are going to corrode quite quickly and then leak. (And using yellow pe is just adding more rat food). Bear in mind that the sewer system is not just smallish pipes. This is Victorian Engineering at its best. There's some cathedral like spaces down there, and the system connects with the fresh water sewers, other tunnel systems and even the Underground. Get to the lower flammability limit, one naughty spark (did I mention the Tube?) and it'll do more that blow the bloody manholes off. Come to think of it, I don't like the idea of Leccy down there either. But then, I'm an engineer not a beancounter - a spreadsheet and a bonus for some deskbound excel jockey is more important than the lives of sewer workers after all - out of sight out of mind.
I know of other organisations that tried to utilise cable runs next to railway tracks before and eventually gave up after months of dealing with the rail networks. Massive issues like the wrong colour of florescent jackets being used (plus other more genuine problems) meant it never happened.
Is there a security issue here about physical access to the data cables being easier?
For a regular underground cable, the potential point of physical access for a miscreant is at the (locked) green cabinet. Although conditions in a sewer are less than pleasant, it's not all that hard to pop open a manhole cover and go into the sewer to do something naughty to the cable.
Firstly, old Victorian sewers are often badly maintained, leading to unexpected collapses that are liable to sever the fibre. (In one case I know of, an entire double decker bus vanished below road level.)
Secondly, rats. They just love chewing on anything and everything. When Cambridge University installed their private fibre+copper network some years ago one of the key dimensions in the design was the widest a large rat could open its jaws. All fibre & cables were put into pipes larger than that.
When I worked for BT ISTR plenty of cables being severed by other people digging up the roads for their own services. And the submarine cables used to get eaten by Sharks.
If I was putting cable in a sewer I think the best place for it would be along the roof and so long as you dont leave the ladders in the rats aren't going anywhere near that.
More than 25 years ago, I wanted to lay fibre across a moderate sized city. More than a century earlier it had been a pioneer in the use of gas for lighting. When electricity came along, the gas reticulation network was gradually forgotten. When we arranged for the engineers to examine the disused system they were pleasantly surprised and we had our network in next to no time.
Since then, I always ask people about what might have been forgotten, it can be very cost effective.
One of the issues with setting up a UK cable TV network was that once the cable was laid it's recovery process was so expensive it's "asset" value was basically zero.
So once it's down, it's basically not an asset, it's a sunk capital cost.
Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021