O2 and Three to flush 5G through the sewers

Telecom companies find an innovative place to pipe fibre infrastructure where it won't be wasted

A dark sewer tunnel

The internet is often described as a sewer, but soon it could be brought to you via one, as O2 and Three are looking to build 5G infrastructure in the sewers of London.

The two telecom giants have entered a partnership that centres around the use of Scottish energy company SSE's fibre ring to enhance connectivity and pave the way for further 4G and 5G deployment by connecting cell sites and masts.

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A proportion of SSE's network is located in the Thames Water's wastewater network which is a sewer that dates back to the mid-19th century.

"Networks will fundamentally underpin the UK's digital economy and will be essential to 5G services," said Colin Sempill, managing director of SSE Enterprise Telecoms.

"With this high capacity core in the London sewers, Three UK and O2 are tapping into our unique, diverse connectivity and putting their networks in a strong position to trial 5G offerings, while enhancing existing services for their customers."

SSE is licensed to lay fibre optic cables throughout Thames Water's wastewater network. The company said it has looked at innovative ways to create new fibre networks in key locations, such as major cities, that would be cheaper and faster to deploy.

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Three and O2 are hoping to use the networks to provide greater connectivity to prime West End locations such as Oxford Street.

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The next generation mobile services are expected to be available in the UK by the second half of 2019, reportedly when the first 5G capable devices are released by manufacturers. To make 5G a reality, however, SSE said that "deep, robust aggregation of fronthaul and backhaul access is necessary in order to provide greater resiliency, increase capacity and reduce latency".

Brendan O'Reilly, chief technology officer of O2 said: "This kind of agreement is essential to allow for continued investment and improvement of services for our customers.

"This partnership is a great example of SSE Enterprise Telecoms, Three UK and O2 coming together in a collaborative and innovative way to address the growing challenge and pressure of obtaining access to fibre for mobile backhaul in the UK"

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