O2 and Three will use London sewers to spread 5G connectivity

The 5G revolution may be piped through the sewer but this plan actually doesn't stink

3 Oct 2018
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The internet and all of its various dark corners are often described as a sewer but, soon enough,  it could actually come into your home via one. No, this isn't a rumour causing up a stink, it's actually how both O2 and Three are planning to build 5G infrastructure into London the fastest way possible.

In partnership with Scottish energy company SSE, O2 and Three are looking to tap into the company's fibre ring across London to pave the way for improved 4G and 5G deployments in the capital. The move is to help connect cell sites with masts and ensure the city's creaking internet infrastructure can actually rival that of other world cities.

The sewer comes into play as a proportion of SSE's fibre network is located in Thames Water's wastewater network, a sewer system dating back to the mid-19th century.

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"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.

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"