Openreach engineers will use ground penetrating radar (GPR) technology for the first time to help minimise disruption and speed up the deployment of cutting-edge Fibre-to-the-Premises broadband infrastructure (FTTP) in Salisbury.
Using GPR allows Openreach’s engineers to see and map out a clear route for its new cables without any drilling, probing or digging. That means it can avoid the need for disruptive road closures and minimise the risk of obstructing or damaging any existing infrastructure already buried underground.
The technology is being used to support another new engineering technique called micro ducting – one of a raft of innovations being employed to make Salisbury the first entire city in the country to gain access to the company’s ultrafast full fibre broadband.
Openreach’s Chief Engineer Andy Whale, said: “This is the first location in the UK where we’re aiming to upgrade an entire city network in a single year, so it’s a hugely ambitious project, but being able to use time and cost saving innovations like radar and micro ducting, combined with the unrivalled experience and skill of our engineering teams – means that we can have more confident that it’s achievable.
“We’re constantly looking at ways of improving and evolving the build process, and these are just the latest additions to our innovations toolkit. Micro ducting allows our teams to install new cables much more quickly – up to 300 metres each day. The technique is also less disruptive for local residents, reducing the amount building work – road works and all the associated disruption – by about 50 per cent, and it also uses fewer resources so it helps to reduce our costs and build times.
“Using radar also makes the whole process safer. We’re digging into pavements that have other utilities like electricity, gas and water buried underneath. The last thing we want to do is cut off people’s supply by accidentally damaging a cable, so GPR means we can keep that risk to an absolute minimum,” concluded White.
Following successful trials, Salisbury is the first location in the UK where Openreach is using these new building methods, with engineering teams connecting an initial 130 premises in Bemerton, in the Western part of the city, over the coming weeks.
Whilst Openreach is typically reusing many of its existing poles and underground ducts to build the new network, the company believes micro-ducting could be a useful option when it comes to extending the network into areas that don’t have any existing infrastructure.
Openreach is aiming for its ‘Fibre First’ build programme in Salisbury to be completed within a year, and it will deliver fibre optic broadband cables from the exchange directly to more than 20,000 premises across the city.
Salisbury is one of 38 locations across the UK have now been included in the first phase of Openreach’s multi-million pound Fibre First programme. Openreach aims to reach four million homes and businesses with ‘full fibre’ broadband by the end of 2020, with an ambition is to reach 15 million premises by the mid-2020s, and ultimately, the majority of the UK, if the right conditions to invest are in place.