Pilot project to deliver broadband via Scotland's sewer systems

February 12, 2004 Rosyth, Scotland -- Via a strategic partnership with Scottish Water, Fibrelink Ltd. will conduct a pilot project at the new Europarc at Rosyth in Fife to use Scotland's existing network of sewers to install high-speed broadband cable technology.

February 12, 2004 Rosyth, Scotland -- Via a strategic partnership with Scottish Water, Fibrelink Ltd. will conduct a pilot project at the new Europarc at Rosyth in Fife to use Scotland's existing network of sewers to install high-speed broadband cable technology.

The pilot will be a test-bed for a possible rollout across Scotland with the first cables expected to be laid in February 2004. Scottish Water will lease the sewer network, while Fibrelink contracts with telecom providers to deliver the broadband connection.

The Rosyth scheme will see the first UK use of Fibrelink's Sewer Cable System (SCS), developed in partnership with the Swiss company Brugg. The cable, which has a maximum diameter of 22 mm and a tensile breaking strain of over 10 tonnes, has been used in Europe for several years and has the capacity to offer sufficient bandwidth to meet the requirements of all the existing businesses in the Rosyth Europarc.

The project has been in development with Scottish Water for more than 15 months; Fibrelink has already invested in excess of £200,000 in the concept.

"The Sewer Cable System provides a low-cost link for areas which have no broadband or which are looking to increase bandwidth," explains Elfed Thomas, commercial director of Fibrelink. "The essence of the system is to provide a quick and cost-effective way for telco carriers to meet the growing demand from customers for broadband and bandwidth."

"Scotland is taking the lead in this area and we fully expect our system to be deployed to install fiber-optic cable throughout the UK over the next few years," he continues. "We anticipate substantial investment over the next 10 years with between 100 km-500 km of cabling being deployed in Scotland alone. In the longer term, we envisage an investment of more than £2-3 million over the next 5 years."

Fibrelink was specifically created to provide a bridge between the utility operators and the telecom companies and sees its main aim as helping to deliver effective and cheap broadband access for isolated networks or areas of the country.

The pilot scheme in Fife should be watched with interest across the country as the system has the potential to roll out nationwide via Scotland's 24,000 miles of sewers.

Discussions are already at an advanced stage with other water and sewerage companies in England and Wales.

The Sewer Cable System has a number of advantages. There is no need for streets to be dug up to install it, and installation time is short. Cabling is loose lay and does not need to be fixed to the sewer wall, avoiding any possible damage to the pipes. And the sewer operator can generate additional income by renting out the additional fiber capacity for other uses.

"This is very much a pilot project to test the possibility of utilizing the existing wastewater networks to build new communications capacity at reduced cost and with lower environmental impact during installation," reports Chris Banks, commercial director of Scottish Water. "This type of loose lay technology is a first for the water industry in the UK. We are not attempting to become communications experts but, for the first time, we are playing landlord to the real communications experts and allowing our sewer network to play host to a new communications infrastructure."

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