Fast broadband will run through water pipes in parts of South Yorkshire as part of plans to get better internet access to people quicker.

New proposals to accelerate the rollout of broadband without digging up roads would see fibre-optic cables deployed through 17 kilometres of live drinking water mains between Barnsley and Penistone in the government technology trial.

Broadband companies could then tap into the network to deliver gigabit-capable connections to an estimated 8,500 homes and businesses along the route, helping to level up hard-to-reach communities.

The network will also be used to set up 5G masts to bring fast and reliable wireless broadband to hard-to-reach communities where wired solutions are too expensive to deliver commercially. The first trial of its kind in the UK, it will also explore how fibre can help the water industry detect leaks, operate more efficiently and lower the carbon cost of drinking water.

The University of Strathclyde will be installing a private 5G network at two remote locations in Yorkshire and will provide backhaul, the links which support the network. The project, funded by the UK Government’s Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is led by Yorkshire Water and also involves engineering company Arcadis.

Civil works, in particular installing new ducts and poles, can make up as much as four-fifths of the costs to industry of building new gigabit-capable broadband networks. The Fibre in Water scheme will demonstrate what could be a greener, quicker and more cost-effective way of connecting fibre optic cables to homes, businesses and mobile masts, without the disruption caused by digging up roads and land.

The materials that will come into contact with the water supply have been approved for use in the UK, and they have already been deployed in water pipes in other countries such as Spain.

The trials will last for up to two years and, if successful, the technology could be operational in networks from 2024 onwards.

Extract from Strathclyde University news - read more here

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