Three and O2 UK to Tap London's Sewer Network for Fiber Connectivity to 4G and 5G Sites

Three and O2 UK to Tap London's Sewer Network for Fiber Connectivity to 4G and 5G Sites Image Credit: leungchopan/

SSE Enterprise Telecoms – one of the UK’s leading connectivity suppliers, this week announced details of a fibre agreement with Three UK and O2 that will form the basis of enhanced fibre access in the country’s capital.

The partnership centres around the use of SSE Enterprise Telecoms’ fibre ring – where a proportion of the network is located in the Thames Water waste water network – to significantly enhance Three UK and O2’s connectivity backhaul capabilities and pave the way for further 4G and 5G deployment by connecting cell sites and masts.

The speed, consistency and ubiquity of 5G is expected to revolutionise consumer services, allowing for near-instant downloads of HD films, while underpinning next-generation technology enhancements such as connected cars, smart medical devices and smart cities. To make 5G a reality, deep, robust aggregation of fronthaul and backhaul access is necessary in order to provide greater resiliency, increase capacity and reduce latency.

The key requirement ahead of the launch of commercial 5G services is high capacity fibre connectivity, which must provide fast, reliable and secure backhaul to core networks, in order to be able to cope with the expected massive increase in data usage: according to Ofcom, UK data usage is set to grow thirteen-fold between 2017 and 2025.

Next generation mobile services are expected to begin in the UK in the second half of 2019 when the first 5G capable devices are released by manufacturers.

Why sewers could be the key to 5G

Following a deal struck in 2017, SSE Enterprise Telecoms is licensed to lay fibre optic cables throughout Thames Water’s waste water network. Following the need for more pervasive networks, SSE Enterprise Telecoms has sought new, innovative routes to create new fibre networks in key locations at a lower cost and with faster deployment times than traditional digs.

The agreement with Three UK and O2 will see approximately 100 points of connectivity exit from this central London sewer network via two BT Exchanges. By partnering with SSE Enterprise Telecoms, Three UK and O2 can operate their own Central London Area (CLA) network, while also accessing spare fibre ducts for future initiatives in London.

Colin Sempill, MD of SSE Enterprise Telecoms
With this high capacity core in the London sewers, Three UK and O2 are tapping into our unique, diverse connectivity and putting their networks in a strong position to trial 5G offerings, while enhancing existing services for their customers.

Brendan O'Reilly, CTO, O2
This partnership is a great example of SSE Enterprise Telecoms, Three UK and O2 coming together in a collaborative and innovative way to address the growing challenge and pressure of obtaining access to fibre for mobile backhaul in the UK.

Executive Editor of The Fast Mode | 5G | IoT/M2M | Telecom Strategy | Mobile Data Innovations 

Tara Neal covers stories on strategies and initiatives in the Digital Telco space, and anchors the 5G and IoT/M2M verticals on the publication. Tara holds a First Class Honours in BSc Accounting and Finance from The London School of Economics, UK and is a CFA charterholder from the CFA Institute, United States. Tara has over 20 years experience in technology and business strategy.

Follow her on Twitter @taraneal11, LinkedIn @taraneal11, Facebook or email her at


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