The social network has just announced that it has developed a robot capable of winding optical fiber on medium-voltage power lines, in partnership with ULC Robotics. The cost would thus be three to five times lower than the traditional aerial construction operated by the players in the sector.
Karthik Yogeeswaran, wireless systems engineer at Facebook Connectivity, believes that the complexity of fiber deployment is hindering the global adoption of ultra high-speed broadband. So this innovation could make a big difference in a large part of the developing world, but also in countries with very large territories.
"The idea of using electricity infrastructure first came to us after seeing the ubiquitous power grid infrastructure as we travelled through rural Africa. ...with its long transmission lines usually suspended from high lattice towers, power transmission networks perform a function similar to that of an internet backbone, connecting generation sites to substations."
Facebook's innovation is expected to prove decisive as it will reduce the manual deployment of optical fibre on medium-voltage lines. The robot is capable of continuing the deployment on live lines while overcoming the obstacles it encounters in order to minimize disruptions to electrical services.
However, the robot must be light enough to be supported by these medium voltage lines. The amount of optical fiber that it can carry with it is therefore limited. To get around this difficulty, Facebook has modified the size of the cable used.
"While traditional aerial fiber deployment involves heavy machinery, coil carts, large coils and large teams, a fiber deployment team deploying our solution will consist of two or three power line installers and a van with a few kilometers of fiber coils, a robot and a few accessories, which will allow many teams to work in parallel", says Karthik Yogeeswaran.
In developing countries, Facebook estimates that the total cost of deploying a very high-speed network, including the labour needed to operate the robot, would be between 2 and 3 dollars per metre. The US giant explains that "by reducing the total cost of aerial deployment of the fibre, we hope our system will have a significant impact on Internet penetration, especially in the half of the world that earns less than $5.50 a day",
While this innovation should not be used in France, it should help to improve the adoption of very high speed broadband in many parts of the world.
Source : ZDNet