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Upgrade Speed To Accelerate Revolutionary Telecoms

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Upstart (Upgrade Speed To Accelerate Revolutionary Telecoms)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2019-04-30

The replacement of aging copper wire telephone legacy, internet infrastructures requires substantial investment and civil engineering works, such as the digging-up of roads to lay down high-speed broadband, account for up to 80% of the cost of deploying high-speed networks. Telecoms companies are rolling out fibre networks within EU member countries, across Europe, and in countries in the rest of the world. However, those companies are meeting their implementation targets by installing fibre from the area network to the street cabinet (otherwise known as the “Final Mile”) where it is most economic to do so leaving some 10 to 15% hard to reach broadband subscribers with a substandard service. Furthermore, whilst the target of 100Mbps was the target for 2020 set in 2012, technology has moved on and the new standard being set by countries such as South Korea with advanced digital networks is up to 10Gbps. Although copper wire internet infrastructures are slow they are ubiquitous, based on telephone communication and reaching into almost every household and business. F2F’s solution is a cable extraction technology to enable the utilization of the copper wire infrastructure and with very limited expensive excavation replace the copper inner core of the pre-existing cable with fibre optic cable using the original cable sheath as a duct. Our technology is focused on extraction and replacement of the copper core cable both from the broadband backbone to the area network and from the area network to the street connection point. It works by compressing the copper inner core within the sheath of a buried or ducted cable using a lubricating fluid injected at pressure between the cable sheath and wrapping around the copper inner core. Once the inner core is fully compressed, it is extracted using a winch and the replacement fibre optic cable can be drawn through as the redundant core is pulled out.
The objectives for the project are to develop the technology from TRL7 to TRL9 for the extraction of the copper inner core from the legacy telecom broadband cable by compression to create a duct for fibre optic cable so that it is a robust proven process to be licenced to and operated by end users who install fibre optic networks.
The technology in its present format was developed using standard equipment and components such as the pump and winch, adapted to demonstrate the process. Grant funding for this project by the EU has enabled Fast2Fibre to develop the key components of the technology so a well-developed commercial technology package can be demonstrated to potential end-users and licensed to them. In addition to the technology itself we’ve also developed training packages for end users and have a manufacturing and logistics supply route established for the process consumables such as the extraction fluid. Additionally, we’ve developed a proprietary pump and quick connector system for the process that we will supply to our clients under licence. Through demonstrations and field trials as part of this project we’re now engaging in commercial negotiations with potential licencees for the process.
The outcome from the project is that any team wishing to extract the core from a cable can do so with F2F proprietary pumps, fluids and connectors together with access to a database of extraction parameters for known cables and a specified winch. The process in its current form can efficiently extract the core from almost all telecommunication cables in Europe, and around the World.
In conducting this work, we developed a database of known cable extraction parameters that’s accessible by licencees of our process and as cables are tested and extracted the database is constantly expanded. In terms of extraction fluids, we’ve developed a range of biodegradable fluids that are sustainable and can be delivered in a logistics system to the point where it’s needed. Finally, we’ve specified the winch requirements in terms of pulling force and pulling rate so the winch can be sourced on the open market. As part of this project we worked closely with several major telecommunications companies running field trials to demonstrate the process. Notably we worked with Orange France at a site in Grenoble which once formed part of the Winter Olympics and is now a nature reserve with a requirement to upgrade to fibre without trenching or installing unsightly ariel cables. The trial was a success and reported in the local Grenoble press.

F2F’s technology is very much a Business to Business proposition to large telecommunications companies in a market where the excavation and replacement of existing telephone cables for fibre optic cables is regulated by control of the network and permissions to dig. Fast2Fibre will exploit the technology and gain revenues by licensing the process and supplying consumables and equipment such as the extraction fluids and pump to the end user. Dissemination has been targeted at specific end users rather than to the public at large.
It’s widely accepted that high speed digital interconnectivity is key to the development of an advanced economy and the Commission recognises that in order to match world leaders like South Korea and Japan, Europe needs download rates of 30Mbps for all of its citizens and at least 50% of EU households subscribing to internet connections above 100Mbps by 2020.
There is a growing body of literature that demonstrates a positive impact of broadband on economic activity i.e. GDP and one widely quoted study concludes that a 10% increase in broadband penetration results in a GDP growth between 0.9% and 1.5%. In the UK it is projected that the internet economy will account for 12.4% of GDP in 2016 with a CAGR of 10.9% from 2010 to 2016. Furthermore, high speed internet increases productivity with gains ranging from 5 to 20%, is a net job creator, can significantly reduce the cost of health and social care services, facilitates education at lower costs and has a specific role in crime protection. Investment in high speed broadband is estimated to provide a 20:1 benefit ratio and the OECD concludes that the cost savings of between 0.5% and 1.5% in each of the transport, energy, education and electricity sectors of the economy would justify the construction of a national FTTH network.
Particularly in urban environments, the provision of fibre optic services can be restricted because conventional techniques for laying the cable involving excavation are prohibitively expensive, highly disruptive or not allowed.
Our technology developed as a result of this project is unique because it is an easy to use, economic, reliable portable system that can be utilised by network infrastructure owners, and their contractors to rapidly extract the copper core in existing legacy telephone networks and replace it with optical fibre cable for the “First-Mile” broadband connection from the area network to the street cabinet without resort to expensive trenching or other digging techniques. It is particularly cost effective in urban environments offering potential overall cost savings of 48% compared to excavation techniques and it offers future proofing for the network as it enables the installation of fibre optic cable capable of supporting digital communications at the highest speeds (>1Gbps) far into the future.