Broadband sewer plan in pipeline

UK consumers could get an ultra-fast broadband connection within the next few years – through the sewer system.

The sewage network could be a cost-effective way to avoid a potential broadband bottleneck in the UK.

The growing popularity of downloading music and films over the internet and the arrival of internet over television services such as the BBC’s iPlayer, are putting increasing strain on existing broadband networks.

The government is pressing telecoms companies such as BT to begin investing in new, faster infrastructure.

However, BT has warned that the cost of digging up roads across the country to lay new cable could be as much as £15bn ($29bn).

Using the UK’s existing network of 360,000 miles of sewers, however, could cut costs by 70 to 80 per cent, said Elfed Thomas, managing director of H2O Networks. He estimated that it would cost between £15m and £24m to connect a small city, compared with up to £80m through traditional methods.

The fibre-optic cable network would allow broadband speeds of at least 100 megabits a second, compared with a current top speed of around 24 megabits per second on BT’s broadband network. A similar system is in use in the Paris sewers and parts of Japan.

The fibre-optic cable is simply pulled through the sewers, and there is a small amount of digging to connect it from the sewer mains to each house.

Mr Thomas said that the company had lined up deals with several internet television providers that were interested in using the network.

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