SSE Enterprise Telecoms counters DFA ruling with innovative ‘fibre in the sewers’ Thames Water partnership

Dec 05, 2017

The agreement will allow networks to be created up to 10 times faster; more directly and securely, in key business areas such as the City of London using the waste water network.

SSE Enterprise Telecoms – one of the UK’s leading connectivity suppliers, and part of SSE plc – today announced that it has signed an ‘operating licence to deploy’ agreement with Thames Water, enabling the distribution of SSE Enterprise Telecoms’ fibre optic cables throughout Thames Water’s waste water network. The deal comes as SSE Enterprise Telecoms seeks new, innovative routes to expand its footprint.

A consequence of the recent Dark Fibre Access (DFA) ruling – that rival providers will not be able to access BT Openreach’s existing fibre optic cables to increase competition and end user services – has meant that SSE Enterprise Telecoms has sought new and creative ways to enable connectivity.

Tapping into waste water networks

Traditionally, telecoms networks have been created and expanded through civil construction ‘digs’, that involve laying cables just below the surface – a costly, time-intensive and disruptive way of establishing new connections. By utilising Thames Water’s already existing waste water system, SSE Enterprise Telecoms will be able to reduce network deployment costs by 60% and deploy connectivity services up to 10 times faster than through traditional digs.

Through the partnership, SSE Enterprise Telecoms will be able to establish a more physically secure network. Thames Water’s network sits as deep as 10 metres underground, making it much less susceptible to tampering or inadvertent outages, compared to conventional digs, in which telecommunications cable is laid as shallow as 12 inches below ground level. Laying fibre services deeper below the surface ensures the network is less vulnerable to accidental fibre breaks.

As utility companies, with common values of security and reliability, the partnership also underpins SSE Enterprise Telecoms and Thames Water’s aim to deliver excellent customer services.

“Businesses fundamentally rely on their network to underpin everyday operations,” said Mike Magee, Director of Service Solutions at SSE Enterprise Telecoms. “With an ever-increasing demand for connectivity, network infrastructures require higher resiliency and improved diversity. Estimates suggest there are as many as 3,000 enterprises in the finance and insurance sectors in the City of London area alone, each vying for connectivity. This has made the demand for unique, truly diverse network routes hard to achieve. We’ve identified a way to solve this by leveraging the waste water network”.

Unique routing and a bespoke offering

The geographic spread of Thames Water’s waste water network means that SSE Enterprise Telecoms is well-positioned to offer bespoke, customer-driven network build-outs to leading risk-averse businesses in London and further afield.

“With the sensitive information that large businesses and financial services firms hold, coupled with regulatory pressures, networks must be secure and robust. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that network deployment is about competitive advantage – being able to provide a guaranteed, instant customer experience is no longer a ‘nice to have’. As technology changes and new innovations are released, it is essential that networks can cope with increased capacity requirements and have the ability to easily scale their connectivity services to meet this need. Our ‘operating licence to deploy’ with Thames Water allows us to be one of few to genuinely fit the sector’s needs” said Magee.

The deal also allows Thames Water to utilise its existing infrastructure without any disruption to general operations, while meeting EU and UK guidelines and helping to support the UK’s digital strategy. A section of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market Directive on access to existing physical infrastructure recommends that making use of all relevant and available physical infrastructure for the roll-out of communication networks will enhance efficiencies, minimise costs and accelerate the deployment of connectivity.

“Our Victorian sewers are already home to a number of pipes and cables belonging to other utility companies and we’re glad to also now be supporting SSE Enterprise Telecoms,” said Richard Hill, Head of Property, Thames Water. “Reducing roadworks and traffic congestion is something hugely important to us, so it’s great to help a fellow utility company do the same by allowing them to make use of our existing infrastructure.”

In recent years, SSE Enterprise Telecoms has made significant investment in its UK-wide network. This ensures that the company is strategically placed to connect both densely populated and remote sites. SSE Enterprise Telecoms recently announced the third phase of its network expansion programme, Project Edge, which brings the total number of exchanges served by its national fibre network to 140, with 300,000 prime business postcodes served.

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