The UK government is looking into allowing telecoms companies to make use of the existing network of ducts, pipes and so on - as currently used by the likes of water and energy suppliers. The move could "give broadband firms access to more than a million kilometres of underground utility ducts in order to boost rollout of next-generation broadband," says an official press release published on Friday.
According to research studied by the government, civil works (the setting up of poles, ducts, and similar physical infrastructure) make up about 80 per cent of the cost of building gigabit-capable broadband networks. If it were easier for networking firms to lay cables though the existing electricity, gas, water and sewer networks that span the UK that would save a lot of time, resources, money, and potentially reduce roadworks disturbances too.
The National Infrastructure Commission research reckons that re-using infrastructure can deliver savings of £8 billion across the UK. Currently transmission technology supports downloads speeds of up to 1 gigabit over the connections that are proposed to be routed via these existing UK passive infrastructure networks.
"It makes both economic and common sense for firms rolling out gigabit broadband to make use of the infrastructure that already exists across the country," said Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman. "This will help them avoid the high costs and disruption of having to dig or build their own and ultimately benefit consumers." Warman noted that Openreach has already delivered improved access to its ducts and poles to competitors, and thinks the same philosophy applied to the broader utility industry will help realise the government's vision of providing next gen broadband throughout the UK.
To get the ball rolling the government is enabling the sharing of information about access to physical infrastructure across the utility, transport and communications sectors. Fair and reasonable commercial terms and conditions must apply for sharing the passive networks with ISPs.
Other recent UK broadband news
Some other UK broadband developments worth checking out include a report published by ISPReview about Cross-party MPs seeking free broadband for 1.3 million kids.
Last week I got an email from the Centre for Economics and Business Research that suggested an extensive full fibre broadband network in place in the UK could help revive the economy and create 1.2 million new skilled jobs by 2025.