In our last blog entry, we discussed a piece of proposed legislation that would encourage states to deploy fiber optic cables in conjunction with highway construction products. Now we’ve caught wind of another creative new avenue for fiber optic deployment—municipal water pipes.
In the remote coastal city of Anacortes, Washington, the city council recently approved a contract with an English company that has developed a way to feed fiber optic cables through existing water pipes. Initially, the new fiber network will be used to replace the city’s aging radio-based system which controls the local sewage and water systems. Once the installation is complete and everything is up and running, residents and businesses will be able to tap into the network as well. The city’s unconventional approach to fiber optic deployment will allow them to connect a distant water treatment station to the city limits with relative ease.
So what will the “pipe-in-pipe” installation entail?
First, a length of narrow “micro-duct” will be fed through the city’s 36-inch-diameter water pipes, and held in place with special adapters. This micro-duct is made of the same materials as the city’s existing water pipes, so that it will resist environmental wear and tear. Once it’s in place, fiber optic cable will be fed through the micro-duct, allowing city officials to easily connect any two locations that are hooked up to the municipal water supply. The micro-duct installation is expected to take about 30 days. Installation of the fiber optic cable will be handled by a local nonprofit group.
This unique approach to fiber optic deployment is expected to save Anacortes a significant amount of time and money. It’s already been implemented successfully in the UK, Spain, New Zealand and South Africa. With demand for broadband access at an all-time high, we’re likely to see more creative solutions to fiber optic deployment in the future as well.