Fibre in Water is an open competition, allocating up to £4 million of R&D funding to projects that develop and build a pilot or pilots to facilitate connecting the hardest to reach areas of the UK with advanced fixed and mobile telecoms services and reduce water leakage from potable water pipes. It will enable innovative technologies in the water industry and ‘future proof’ water and telecommunications infrastructure including de-risking the PSTN switch-off between 2021 and 2025.

The Fibre in Water: Improving Access to Advanced Broadband and Mobile Services via Drinking Water Mains (FiW) project is to pilot and facilitate delivery of advanced broadband and mobile services via drinking water mains. This will help to align policy, regulation and commercial interests across five Government departments, multiple agencies as well as the private sector in the water and telecoms industries.

The project will look to test barriers in regulations, approvals and licensing at national, regional and local levels and reduce time, cost, disruption and carbon costs associated with delivering gigabit capable digital services and mobile coverage. The project will also look to demonstrate how this vital infrastructure (water and telecoms) can be delivered together, while delivering savings to customers. This will both support economic development in some of the UK’s hardest to reach communities, and simultaneously enable the modernisation of the water industry, including solving the challenge it faces from the removal of the copper public switched telephone network (PSTN) between 2021 and 2025.

The project will also enable the water industry to radically reduce the current 20% clean water leakage and resulting carbon emissions, passing on benefits to consumers through lower bills. This is part of a wider industry effort as well as Ofwat which has a 50% reduction target on leakage.

Deployment challenges for essential utilities like water and telecoms are complex, and are tightly regulated as both are key pillars of the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). There are significant synergies between critical infrastructures that could be exploited if the deployment challenges can be overcome.

While some of the prior technical barriers to delivering FiW appear resolvable, barriers to adoption remain in regulation and coordination. Working collaboratively between departments, regulators and agencies as well as the two industries is essential for this project to succeed.

This competition aims to find a suitable consortium of partners to deliver feasibility studies and technical pilot(s), as well as represent the interests and challenges faced by their industries.

Objectives of the pilot

  • Execute a Feasibility Study to de-risk and inform the detailed scope, costs and benefits of the pilot implementation. Sign-off of this study will form a gate for progression with the rest of the Pilot.
  • Deploy a FiW pilot solution in the UK at sufficient scale to explore the technical, security, operational, regulatory and commercial challenges and benefits to all stakeholders and to give confidence that the solution could be scaled nationally.
  • Support DCMS in building a community or ecosystem around the pilot that will ensure wide adoption of FiW, sharing key learning in the form of case study, technical reports and other project outputs.
  • Collaborate with DCMS, DEFRA and their partners to inform and test regulatory, commercial, operational and cultural barriers to widespread adoption of FiW

An online launch event will be held at 2pm on 10th August: click here to register for a place.

Who can apply?

This competition is open to applications from consortia of two or more members with funding available for activity taking place in the UK.

How to apply

Please read the Competition Guidance at the link below, complete the Application Form, the Finance Forms and Participation Agreement provided, and submit your documents to the following email address: 5genquiries@dcms.gov.uk. You will receive an email acknowledgement of your registration.