SSE teams up with Thames Water to lay fibre broadband in London's Victorian sewer network

Oliver Gill
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London's Victorian sewer network is perfect for laying fibre optic cable, SSE said (Source: Getty)

A leading broadband provider believes it has hit the ideas jackpot in the battle to boost Britain's broadband internet: it wants to lay fibre optic cables in London's vast sewer network.

Energy giant SSE, which has an established broadband infrastructure offering, has teamed up with Thames Water. It plans to tuck fibre cabling 10 metres underground, meaning it is "less susceptible to tampering or inadvertent outages".

The move is an attempt to counter a court ruling on so-called "dark fibre" access. In August, judges said rival providers would not be able to access BT's Openreach unused existing network of fibre optic cables

Mike Magee, a director of service solutions at SSE Enterprise Telecoms, estimated as many as 3,000 finance and insurance companies in the City are jockeying for better connectivity.

He said:

This has made the demand for unique, truly diverse network routes hard to achieve... We’ve identified a way to solve this by leveraging the waste water network.

Read more: Vodafone to roll out Virgin Media-style broadband to 5m UK homes

SSE said the geographic spread of Thames Water’s waste water network means it is well-positioned to offer bespoke, customer-driven network build-outs to leading risk-averse businesses in London and further afield.

“Our Victorian sewers are already home to a number of pipes and cables belonging to other utility companies and we’re glad to also now be supporting SSE Enterprise Telecoms,” said Thames Water head of property Richard Hill.

“Reducing roadworks and traffic congestion is something hugely important to us, so it’s great to help a fellow utility company do the same by allowing them to make use of our existing infrastructure.”

What is "dark fibre"?

Where internet providers lease strands of fibre cable rather than bandwidth from operators, such as BT's infrastructure arm Openreach.

It effectively allows firms leasing it to link their own infrastructure via fibre connections with limited influence from Openreach.

Read more: Openreach shelves dark fibre roll out after court victory over Ofcom

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