Facebook’s engineering division along with ULC Robotics have created a robot to wrap optical fibre cables over live medium voltage power lines to provide faster internet connection. As per Facebook, using power lines saves costs in deploying optical fibre connectivity and is up to five times cheaper than traditional aerial fibre construction.
Facebook states that more than 70% of the world’s population lives more than 10km from fiber. This is one of the reasons why fibre internet connectivity is expensive and not widely available globally. Using the existing infrastructure of electricity delivery at home, Facebook is simply winding fiber-optic cable around an existing power-line conductor. “Since the fiber cable is wound around a supporting conductor, it is not necessary to make a new space on the pole or pull it at a high tension. This obviates the need for expensive, time-consuming make-ready work,” said Facebook Engineering in a blog post.
Instead of investing in man power and heavy equipment, a robot can be used to install over a kilometre of fiber in approximately an hour and a half. The robot can pass through obstacles on power lines.The robot comes with a vision system to identify obstacles and appropriately adjust its movements to clear the obstacles while maintaining the clearances required to prevent an electrical accident.
“By lowering the total cost of aerial fiber deployment, we expect that our system will have a significant impact on internet penetration, especially among the half of the world earning less than $5.50 USD per day. This is thanks to a subtle benefit of the enormous bandwidth of each fiber strand, which allows large capacity upgrades to be made via simple changes to the electronics on either end of the fiber,” said Karthik Yogeeswaran, wireless systems engineer, Facebook Connectivity in a blog post.