High-tech Robots Deploy Fiber Optic Cables in Sewer Systems

CityNet Telecommunications Inc. has launched the first commercial deployment of a fiber optic network through a sewer system. The first-of-a-kind deployment was conducted in the city of Albuquerque, N.M. Albuquerque Mayor Jim Baca, and CityNet Telecommunications CEO Robert Berger marked the historic event by lowering CityNet’s high-tech robot SAMSM (Sewer Access Module) into the first sewer pipe, and putting in motion what is considered a revolution in broadband connectiv-ity––providing high-speed fiber optic connections directly into thousands of buildings in cities across the United States and internationally. Albuquerque, Indianapolis, and Omaham, Neb., are the first three U.S. cities to sign license and access agreements with CityNet. CityNet is negotiating similar agreements with approximately 26 other U.S. and European cities. "CityNet's fiber optic deployment method gives us the ability to build the most advanced last-mile broadband infrastructure that connects directly into buildings," Berger said. "What remains the most difficult, time-consuming, and capital-intensive task in Albuquerque and in cities around the world is filling the last remaining gap in a true broadband network––the so-called last-mile." The last-mile is the gap in the all-fiber optic broadband network––currently occupied by older and slower copper cables––between end-user buildings and the much larger "beltway" fiber optic networks that circle around cities. CityNet says its sole focus is to replace that copper bottleneck with the gold standard of broadband communications mediums: fiber optics. "This is a very significant day in Albuquerque's history and in the city's continuing efforts to build a world-class broadband infrastructure for businesses and consumers," said Mayor Baca. "We believe CityNet's unique technology and approach gives Albuquerque the most innovative way of delivering advanced high-speed communications, while protecting our city's roads and streets." Experts agree that one of the greatest obstacles to the rapid deployment of broadband Internet and data services is the need to rip up streets to lay fiber optic cable. It has become a major problem in cities around the world. For example, Washington, D.C. has experienced a 700 percent increase in the number of permit requests for fiber optic trenching, going from 59 permit requests in 1996 to 427 last year. In the high-tech area of Palo Alto, Calif., the number of requests rose 300 percent in just one year, from 1999 to 2000. CityNet's small computer-driven robot known as SAMSM is equipped with cameras to install stainless steel alloy rings to support fiber optic cable inside of sewer pipes. The conduit that encases the fiber is made of the same stainless steel alloy that protects the fiber from corrosion and cuts. The 6-inch-wide, 36-inch-long, cylindrical robots are manufactured for CityNet by Ka-Te, a Swiss sewer robotics company. Ka-Te’s robots have already been deployed successfully in European cities such as Hamburg and Regensberg, Germany.

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