The robot crawls along existing power lines while wrapping fibre cable around them, potentially eliminating the need to dig up the streets
Digging trenches to deploy underground cables can be an expensive, time consuming, and disruptive process, but one that has been broadly accepted as necessary by the telecoms industry for decades.
Now, Facebook Connectivity thinks it has developed an alternative in the form of a cable-crawling robot called Bombyx.
Named after the Latin word for ‘silkworm’, Bombyx operates by being attached to existing overhead power cables, which it then craws along, wrapping fibre optic cables around them in the process.
The idea of coupling fibre with aerial power cables is not entirely novel, having been explored by various other players in previous years, but these projects typically involve shutting off the power lines while the fibre is installed. Bombyx, on the other hand, is unintrusive and does not disrupt ongoing power service.
Facebook has been focussing on aerial fibre deployment for a number of years now, explaining in a blog post
earlier this year that underground deployment is “significantly more expensive than aerial construction” and that power infrastructure is “almost exclusively aerial outside of city centres and affluent communities”.
For the past few years, it has been developing its Bombyx concept, which has evolved into a much smaller and more efficient device.
“Since we first unveiled Bombyx it has become lighter, faster and more agile, and we believe it could have a radical effect on the economics of fibre deployment around the world,” explained Facebook.
The company noted that numerous additional innovations were required to make this method of deploying fibre feasible, including the creation of a new form of fibre that Facebook suggests is ten-times lighter and three-times smaller than existing fibre optic cables.
Bombyx has now passed the research and development stage, with Facebook now looking for partners to explore its deployment, especially with electrical infrastructure firms.
Is aerial fibre deployment going to reshape the fixed broadband market? Find out what the experts make of this novel innovation at this year’s live Total Telecom Congress
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