Fiber Optic Cable is one among the fastest ways to deliver the web , because its bandwidth is 1,000 of times greater than, say, coaxial cables—those wires with a pin protruding from the middle that you simply may have screwed into your WiFi router at some point.
The cable itself only costs a couple of meager cents per meter, but the development are often pricey, deterring installation in rural or developing regions. As a result, fiber optic networks are only available to about 30% of households across the U.S., consistent with a 2019 study, including the remainder of the world .
Facebook thinks it’s the solution: a robot that crawls along existing power lines to put in fiber optic cables without a full crew.
When Facebook Engineers noticed the company’s electrical infrastructure is, relatively speaking, ubiquitous in rural African countries, they decided to capitalize upon the prevailing infrastructure. Uganda, as an example , only has an electrification rate of about 43%, consistent with the planet Bank, but the country’s medium-voltage power system (shown below in yellow) remains far more pervasive than its fiber network (shown in red).
In many cases, construction crews install fiber optic cables underground, digging out “microtrenches” for the network hardware. That’s an upscale practice you do not really see with the electrical grid; outside of made neighborhoods and packed cities, most power travels along aerial lines from a generation site, to substations, to communities.
“We realized that following an equivalent grid with fiber might be an efficient thanks to build an end-to-end telecommunications network,” Karthik Yogeeswaran, a wireless systems engineer for Facebook, said during a company blog post.
Facebook plans to use a less-common fiber optic installation method, referred to as a helical wrap, or optical attached cable, to create internet access into pre-existing power lines.
Wayne Kachmar, a longtime cable designer, consulted with Facebook to return up with 200-micron-thick fibers with a high-strength, high-temperature, and track-resistant polymer coating. A typical fiber optic cable weighs about 250 pounds across a 1Km span, but this cable only weighs 28 pounds across an equivalent distance.
Electric utilities can attach 1-pound “repair splices” to existing power lines without creating more work (like surveying and analyzing the pole load, or moving attachments), so it doesn’t cost anything extra to feature the splices on, since they’re so light. Facebook plans to require advantage of that idea for its fiber optic cables.
Since the 1980s, machines are capable of wrapping fiber optic cable around existing power cable conductors. Because these power lines are mostly barren of hardware in between poles, usually to stop fires, there’s room for a machine to follow the length of it.
Enter Facebook fiber wrapping robot. For the fiber installation process to form sense, the machine has got to install the cable while the facility lines are energized. Power outages would be extremely inconvenient to nearby homes and business, to not mention counter intuitive to the method of higher connecting those places.
So the wrapping robot must cross all of the obstacles on its route with none humans, who might be electrocuted if they intervene. The New York-based ULC Robotics helped Facebook come up with the proper design to accomplish that.
The final robot uses a pair of drive subsystems, including robotic grippers, to regulate forward motion; a lift subsystem that raises the robot’s full payload up over obstacles; and a rotation subsystem that helps the complete machine balance itself on the cable . A vision system helps the robot identify obstacles and alter course appropriately.
As for the outside components, just like the shape of the robot and any coatings, Facebook remains working to return up with the simplest combination of materials to stay weight to a minimum and to make sure safe operation.
In around 90 minutes, each robot are going to be ready to install about 1Km worth of fiber while getting around obstacles. the complete crew will include two or three electric utility linemen, a pickup with a couple of kilometer spools of fiber, and one robot. the thought is to possess a few teams working in tandem along the electrical wires at a time.
Internet for All
Not only should this help bring faster internet to households that have already got internet and need to upgrade, but the initiative also will fill within the connectivity gaps across the world , Facebook says. consistent with a September 2019 report by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, roughly 3.5 billion people—half the world’s population—still do not have access to the web in the least.
Facebook won’t actually install the fiber, but will instead license the technology to 3rd party internet service providers and infrastructure firms. Facebook is giving NetEquity Networks, a San Francisco-based infrastructure sharing company, the primary non-exclusive, royalty-free license to deploy its fiber network installation system. Facebook won’t own or operate any of the fiber optic cables.
“If successful, we believe this technology will allow fiber to effectively and sustainably be deployed within a couple of hundred meters of much of the world’s population,” Karthik Yogeeswaran, a wireless systems engineer for Facebook, said within the blog post. “We expect to ascertain technology trials of this fiber deployment system next year.”