Insights Government announces first phase of pilot to run high-speed broadband through water pipes in Yorkshire


In August 2021, the Government announced a three-year project to accelerate the rollout of broadband and mobile signal in rural areas by feeding fibre-optic broadband cables through the UK’s water pipes. The Government says that the scheme could also help to reduce leakage from the public water supply.

The Government has made four million pounds available for innovators to trial what could be a quicker and more cost-effective way of connecting fibre optic cables to homes, businesses and mobile masts, without the disruption caused by digging up roads and land.

The Government has now announced the first phase of the trials to take place in South Yorkshire. Fibre-optic cables will be deployed through 17 kilometres of live drinking water mains between Barnsley and Penistone. The first phase of the project in Yorkshire will focus on the legal and safety aspects of the solution and ensure that combining clean water and telecoms services in a single pipeline is safe, secure and commercially viable before any technology is installed.

The Government says that broadband companies could then tap into the network to deliver gigabit-capable connections to an estimated 8,500 homes and businesses along the route. The network could also be used to set up 5G masts to bring fast and reliable wireless broadband to hard-to-reach communities where wired solutions are too expensive to deliver commercially. The trial will also explore how fibre can help the water industry detect leaks, operate more efficiently and lower the carbon cost of drinking water.

The trials will last for up to two years and, if successful, the technology could be operational in networks from 2024 onwards. To read the Government’s press release in full, click here.