Plans to lay fibre through the sewer system in Bournemouth have ground to a halt after Wessex Water refused to allow i3 Fibrecity (H2O Networks) to deploy using their patented FS System. Fibre run through existing ducting like sewers makes it cheaper to run the cables as there is less requirement to dig up roads to install the infrastructure. Once deployed, customers in the area can then connect up to a full fibre-to-the-home network which grants faster broadband and gives the option for new innovative technologies to be delivered over the fibre connection.
Wessex Water cited contractual issues and said that the technology methodology didn't work for them. i3 had trialled the system using the sewers between Bournemouth town hall and the nearby BIC convention centre, but they were not allowed to continue installing through the sewers after this. Wessex Water did indicate that they would not rule out future proposals for deploying fibre in the sewers however. Fibrecity however saw things slightly differently.
"It is our opinion that Wessex Water has been short sighted in putting commercial demands above the opportunity to provide a low cost fibre optic network that will deliver superfast broadband to their own customers. Citing technical issues as a reason is misleading in respect to the viability of the i3 Group's FS System, a patented method of laying fibre in ready made ducts including sewer pipes. When we announced Fibrecity Bournemouth, it was with the permission of Wessex Water to utilise the pipes where appropriate, therefore keeping disruption to residents and businesses to a minimum. We had completed successful trials and due diligence, and planned to move on to delivery on a commercial basis.
During the rollout, contractual issues have meant that we have had to find alternative means to deliver Fibrecity Bournemouth. As our technology uses three low cost methodologies, we have been able to avoid the rollout coming to a halt, and all works being carried out in Bournemouth are with the consent of Bournemouth Borough Council, having gone through the necessary planning routes.
It is disappointing that Wessex Water's approach to this matter and lack of support for its own customers has been responsible for any delays of the network rollout to date. We are glad to report that other water authorities see the win win that the FS System enables - it helps with the management and repair of the sewer pipes, it generates revenue for the water company as i3 Group pays to have access to the pipes, and of course the fact that the water company's customers will benefit from having access to a super fast fibre to the home network."i3 Group statement
This is not the end for Fibrecity however as they have continued to install in the area using other methods. The company also continues rollout using Sewers in other areas like Dundee and has plans to add further cities in the next 12 months which include Derby, Halton, Nottingham, Plymouth, and York. They have their eye on reaching more than a million UK homes and businesses over the next four years.