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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 09:46 GMT
Broadband goes down the drain
A sewer
London's sewers will be home to high-speed cable
Jane Wakefield

London's sewers are to be used to provide high-speed internet to businesses in the capital.

The joint venture between Thames water and 186K, the telecoms arm of Lattice Group, offers an alternative to BT's broadband service.

Most businesses are currently reliant on BT's copper wire infrastructure in order to benefit from broadband, which offers speeds up to 10 times faster than dial-up access.

Urband, as the joint venture is called, aims to have built its 80km sewer network by August, reaching 8,400 buildings within the London area.

Half of its targeted buildings will be no more than 50 metres away from the underground network.

Alternative to BT

The firm will not sell directly to end customers. Instead it will act as a wholesale provider for telecoms firms and internet service providers.

Roger Wilson, CEO of Urband
Wilson: Confident Urband can win customers
"Our research suggests that there are limited choices in the last mile, with businesses relying on copper from BT. Most telecoms firms are looking for alternatives to leasing from BT," said chief executive Roger Wilson.

The Urband network will please environmentalists too, said Mr Wilson.

"It is offering an end to traffic chaos as 90% of it won't require the roads to be dug up."

Currently there are no plans to extend the service beyond London, although it will be feasible in any town with a sewer network.

Urband is considering a consumer version of the service, not carrying fibre direct to homes but offering internet service providers an alternative to BT from the local telephone exchange to their own networks.

See also:

18 Jan 02 | Business
BT told to lower broadband cost
15 Jan 02 | Business
NTL boosts broadband plans
14 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Will 2002 be the year of broadband?
20 Dec 01 | Business
Sony targets broadband for PS2
19 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Go-ahead for DIY broadband
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