Openreach to undertake 'world's first' trial of new fibre cabling technique

Openreach to undertake 'world's first' trial of new fibre cabling technique

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A new trial from infrastructure provider Openreach will seek to boost the rollout of gigabit-capable networks through the use of new fibre cable technology.

The test, which will take place in Leeds, uses a new type of air-blown ribbon fibre cable that could be as much as five times faster to deploy than conventional solutions, as well as providing more capacity from the same amount of cabling.

It works by bonding individual fibre cables together into a web-like pattern, which allows greater densities of cable to be packed into the same space. This means it can fit up to 432 fibres into a single sheath.

As Openreach is currently able to serve 32 fibre-to-the-premises connections (FTTP) with a single cable, this could help connect far more homes and businesses to exchanges.

The cabling is also able to be 'blown' into underground ducts using compressed air, as opposed to the slower process of manually pulling the cables through the duct, which means they are able to use existing spaces more efficiently.

It also enables engineers to splice together up to 12 fibres simultaneously, rather than having to do them individually as is the case with traditional cables, which allows for much faster deployment over long distances.

Chief engineer at Openreach Andy Whale explained: "The advantages of this clever technology to Openreach are that we can splice less often and when we do have to splice we can do it more quickly. 

"This means we will be able to build the big fibre cables or ‘spines’ supporting all our city builds in less time, with a less labour intensive and disruptive approach."

He added that as the firm scales up its full fibre networks to support FTTP, it will need to deploy higher fibre count spine cables to its exchanges. The new air blown cables will mean engineers no longer need to pull in a few hundred metres at a time.

"Getting new larger fibre count cables through busy city centres where access is difficult and where ducts are already often nearly full is a real headache for our operational teams. We expect this cable to take a lot of their pain away," Mr Whale continued.

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