But is BT locking down its fibre optic supplies in the face of shortages?
BT subsidiary Openreach is conducting an experiment with its cable maker Prysmian to invent a new fibre installation that speeds up the delivery of fibre to the home. This new Karona installation technique eases high-density optical fibre cable into pre-existing sub-ducted routes, slotting in among the legacy cable. The hack is part of a news £15bn UK rollout of a new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network that could reach 25 million premises by December 2026.
Locking down supply of components
Prysmian Group says that it has signed a new three-year contract to provide fiber-optic cable to Openreach, BT’s access infrastructure independent subsidiary. However, according to Lightwave, Openreach appears to be locking down its fibre-optic cabling supply as worldwide demand for fibre and other technologies is surging as a result of government broadband investment programmes. Other major operators around the globe, such as AT&T, have done the same, it says.
If BT Openreach is to reach 25 million UK premises, the networking subsidiary will need a steady supply of infrastructure components, commented Lightwave.
Pioneered in Scotland
In the trial, in Stonehaven Scotland, Sirocco HD 144f 5.0mm diameter cable was run into 600 metres of cable in under 4 hours, increasing the capacity of the route to 432 fibres. The same trick was repeated at Bury St Edmunds, where 730 metres were successfully overblown (laid alongside the legacy cable) by Prysmian’s cable blowing machines in less than 4 hours.
The Karona Overblow System is a small step to the layman but a major logistical breakthrough for Openreach and the industry as a whole because, by using an existing pipe, they bypass the dreaded process of applications for planning permissions and permits for civil work. Normally these can take significant amounts of time to secure. Cable installation using this new method can begin instantly.
Building a new broadband network is second only to HS2 in terms of investment, explained Matthew Hemmings, Openreach MD for Fibre and Network Delivery. The invention, by its cable manufacturing partner Prysmian has a saved a huge amount of time and money.
“BT’s sustained partnership with Prysmian means we can benefit from its teams’ skills and innovation to help us build full fibre even further,” said Hemmings.
Openreach’s network covers 5.2 million premises in the UK.