Water Network Could Carry Broadband Cables

A trial in the UK will run broadband cables through water pipes. The idea is to get twin benefits: expanded broadband provision with reduced disruption, and a way to better detect leaks in water pipes.

While in many regions the biggest obstacle to broadband expansion is the economics of reaching rural areas, this trial is aimed at places where installing new cabling can be hugely disruptive, particularly when it involves digging up roads.

It’s a long-term trial that’s been in the works for several years. The first stage of testing, which will run for up to two years, will concentrate on safety issues as well as seeing what legal issues it throws up in practice.

The trial will involve passing a fiber-optic cable through the 17-mile water pipe between Barnsley and the content-filter-challenging Penistone. The long-term plan is that the government would pay for such cables and then private broadband companies would have the option to build the final connections to people’s homes and offer commercial services. The network would theoretically allow gigabit-connections.

The cable will also incorporate sensors that can detect and report the position of any leaks in the water pipes

As is often the way, the set-up is reminiscent of a Google April Fool’s Day joke from 2011. Being fictional, Google’s version was more ambitious as it also used the water system to deliver (securely packaged) online shopping purchases directly to the toilet bowl.